16. May 2017

Broad alliance calls for cuts to track access charges

Compensate rail for competitive disadvantages / blueprint for transport required

Down with track access charges: rail sector associations join ranks to call on the German government to address the competitive imbalance between the railways and the roads.
Down with track access charges: rail sector associations join ranks to call on the German government to address the competitive imbalance between the railways and the roads.

Berlin, May 16, 2017. Calls for a halving of track access charges are becoming increasingly louder. In Berlin, a broad alliance – made up of the German Pro-Rail Alliance, NEE (Network of European Railways), the rail supply industry, Mofair, BAG SPNV, VCD, VDV, VPI, as well as the transport union EVG – has now spoken out in favour of appropriate measures to help the rail transport sector.

Pro-Rail Alliance: market share is stagnating

“Modal shift from the roads to the railways is not making any progress. Instead, the market share of the environmentally friendly railways has been stagnating for years and has even declined recently,” criticised Dirk Flege, managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance. This is caused by the policy framework conditions – for example the reduction in road tolls on HGVs or the increase in the EEG renewable energy levies imposed on electrically powered railways.

“A halving of track access charges is desperately needed. But this would only be an initial step in rebalancing the competitive disadvantages that the railways have been suffering from for years,” said Flege. In addition, policy makers will have to redouble their efforts to significantly increase market share, particularly for rail freight transport, according to the managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance.


NEE: rail freight transport is particularly suffering

The Network of European Railways NEE sees a need for urgent action, particularly in the rail freight transport sector. “In order to reduce the HGV burden on the roads, track access charges have to be cut drastically,” stated Ludolf Kerkeling, chairman of NEE, an association of competing private rail operators. He called on the current federal government, and on the next parliamentary majority (after the national elections in September) in particular, to make a clear commitment to this step. “If we in the rail sector succeed in jointly producing a detailed implementation concept, the railways could already see increasing market share by 2018.”

This is also made clear in a study carried out for NEE by Professor Christian Böttger from the HTW University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. It forecasts a potential ‘modal shift gain’ of 15 percent more train-kilometres. The reduced income of 365 million euros that would result from halving track access charges would stand in contrast to receipts of 55 million euros that would arise from the resulting increase in rail transport.

Halving track access charges would create additional leeway for initiating long overdue innovations. “A part of the savings must be passed on to the shippers so that they can invest in new technology,” said NEE chairman Ludolf Kerkeling. “The railways cannot ultimately continue to remain competitive if they do not start to innovate. Rail facilities, rolling stock technology and operating procedures must all be brought up to the latest standards,” said Kerkeling.


EVG: government should compensate for loss of income

“Our demand for halving track access charges is only one of the adjustments that needs to be made to strengthen rail transport’s position,” said the chairman of the railway and transport union EVG, Alexander Kirchner. A reduction could, above all, help to win transport contracts where the decision between road and rail is “on a knife’s edge” in terms of price. At the same time, Kirchner made it clear that the EVG is attaching “conditions” to halving track access charges. Funding for maintenance for example must be guaranteed. Money must be found from the overall budget to compensate for any possible loss of income to the government.

The EVG has stipulated that halving track access charges must be part of an overall transport policy concept. “We need a blueprint or masterplan for a transport network that sensibly connects the different modes of transport, and for the railways we need attractive timetable frequencies that help increase demand,” said Kirchner. That would be a well-rounded, overall concept.


Additional information (German):

These are the three key rail sector demands for the next parliament