The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has set the method for assessing whether or not a new passenger rail service jeopardizes the economic equilibrium of an existing concession.
Railway companies are allowed to offer international public train services, even if they do not have a concession for such services. Starting in 2021, this is also possible for domestic train services. This type of public passenger rail transport is also called ‘open access.’ This right to open access follows from European rules, and will apply to all EU Member States starting in 2021. In the Netherlands, the main railway network is exempted from open access through 2025.
Effects of open access on concessions
For passenger rail transport, the Netherlands has a system of concessions. The government (the central government or a province) awards the right to operate rail services for a specific period of time to a single railway company. For example, Dutch Railways NS currently has the right to operate the main railway network, and regional operators Arriva, Keolis, Connexxion and Qbuzz have the rights to operate various regional lines. These operators are concession holders in their respective concession areas. In an open-access regime, operators other than the concession holder are also allowed to operate train services in the concession area in question. However, they would have to meet certain criteria. One important criterion is that the new service cannot jeopardize the economic equilibrium of an existing concession. Such could be the case if, for example, a concession’s profitability is substantially reduced because the new train service ‘steals’ too many passengers from the existing concession holder.
In the Netherlands, ACM is the regulator that assesses the effects of new train services on the economic equilibrium of concessions. The methodology that ACM has now set describes in more concrete terms than the European regulation does what such assessments will look like. In that way, current concession holders, granting authorities, as well as operators of new train services will know what they can expect.
Before the method was set, ACM had asked various market participants to submit their opinions about the draft version of the method in a consultation. These opinions have been taken into account in the finalization of the method.
More in this case
13-01-2020 Method for the analysis of the economic equilibrium on the railway network (in Dutch)