Rail monopoly news – 25th January 2016
4th Railway Package: co-operation agreements will neuter it + CER goes for North Korean-type control!
Fourth Railway Package Trilogue.
Amid some improvement, the UK Government still tries to retain ‘alliances’ or ‘co-operation agreements’ between Infrastructure Managers and one or more Railway Undertakings – in order to be nice to Germany (so that DB Netz and DB RUs can continue their non-transparent and possibly anti-competitive ‘co-operation’) and get some support for whatever Cameron wants in order to avoid BREXIT. However, this is very bad for the railways; alliances in the UK have never shown any financial benefit to either party, but are likely to be anti-competitive to other RUs. They certainly are in some other member states – hence the attempt to outlaw them in the 4th RP. The parties should instead be encouraged to talk to each other, and for the IM to treat all RUs fairly.
National rail monopolies now to be controlled by a North Korean-type European monopoly – ‘if you don’t comply with our policies, leave!’
The Community of European Railways and Infrastructure providers (CER) has long been seen as the voice of the national monopoly incumbents, who run both the infrastructure and most train operators in an integrated whole, whilst doing their best to obstruct competition, better service quality, private investment in the railways and of course stifling growth.
CER members include all national rail incumbents, with SNCF, DB, OBB, PKP and FS being the five big hitters in the European railways. Under a new Internal Regulation being proposed by CER for approval at its General Assembly in February, these incumbents will no longer be allowed to lobby separately from CER on any issues, but only follow the line of CER (see text extract below).
“CER members, regardless of their membership to other associations, agree that CER is the only association representing those members towards the EU-institutions and that any action in this regard is exclusively channelled via CER. This commitment does not prevent each member of CER from engaging in any individual lobbying action towards the European Institutions which does not contradict the action as agreed by them witnin the CER General Assembly or CER Gropu of Assistants.’
part of new draft CER Internal Regulations, paragraph 1 on “Members”.
Some national monopolies would have found this difficult, since each one has large Brussels offices and lobbies separately and often in opposition to each other. Presumably, if this new rule is approved, all CER members would have to close their Brussels offices and let CER do all their lobbying. Likewise, will CER sit next to each of its member when the latter sits in front of an EU official (EC, EP, ERA) and reads down the instructions of CER being given beforehand?
Innovation and diversity of views are fundamental to a successful Europe. The new internal regulations of CER may well put an end to these.
It is not clear what will happen if a CER member does not obey. Are they required to leave CER, do they get fined or exposed in public? It would certainly be interesting to see DB challenged in public for not agreeing with CER or, more likely, since many DB and CER policies seem to be closely aligned, what would SNCF do? Resign?
Maybe CER has taken this whole idea from that scion of democracy, North Korea! In the more democratic European Union, it is to be hoped that CER members will vote against this attempt to control their thoughts and policies!
An irregular comment paper from Tony Berkeley 25th January 2016
Tony Berkeley is chairman of the UK Rail Freight Group and a Board Member of the European Rail Freight Association. The opinions expressed are his own.