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NMa: ProRail to consult again with Veolia about timetable

Dutch railway network manager ProRail is to go back to the negotiation table and consult with railway undertaking Veolia Transport about capacity allocation with regard to the utilization of rail capacity on the so-called Meuse Line (between Nijmegen and Roermond) and on the Heuvelland Line (between Kerkrade and Maastricht). This is the outcome of an investigation by the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) after it had received a complaint from Veolia. ProRail is also obliged to set up an independent dispute-resolution procedure for the event that a railway undertaking and ProRail cannot agree on capacity allocation during the so-called co-ordination phase.

This dispute concerned the way ProRail scheduled rail maintenance works for the 2008 annual timetable. As network manager, ProRail is responsible for rail capacity allocation. Veolia was not awarded the capacity requests it had made on two sections for passenger transport. Veolia was denied to run trains in the evening and nighttime hours in particular, because of rail maintenance works that ProRail will perform then. These are so-called 'nighttime gaps', which are nighttime maintenance periods of 5.5 hours each and which are scheduled across the entire rail network. ProRail uses these periods to perform regular maintenance of the rail tracks. Maintenance of sections with a single track, like the Meuse Line and Heuvelland Line, means that no trains are able to run at all when maintenance works are performed.

The NMa concludes that ProRail has not sufficiently proven that it actually needs all of the nighttime gaps for maintenance works. Furthermore, the NMa states that, when allocating capacity, ProRail should treat all capacity requests equally, whether they are from railway undertakings or from ProRail itself for maintenance works. The NMa has given ProRail three weeks to come to an agreement with Veolia with regard to capacity on both lines. Should both parties fail to reach an agreement, Veolia could then still request the NMa to impose on ProRail an order for incremental payments. The NMa made a decision in a similar dispute between railway undertaking Syntus and ProRail earlier this year. Similar pending disputes by Arriva and NSR are still being processed by the NMa.

This case has been handled by the Office of Transport Regulation, which is the unit within the NMa that enforces the Railway Act. Looking at fair capacity allocation in the railway industry is one of its top priorities in 2008. The NMa will therefore continue to keep a close eye on this industry in the future.