On 30 January 2013 the European Commission presented the fourth railway package. It consists of the technical and the political pillar. Summed up, it comprises step-by-step market opening and better administration of the rail enterprises together with technical harmonisation. One component that is being keenly discussed particularly in Germany is the separation of rail infrastructure from the rail operation. The reason is that Germany has already made great progress with regard to competition between tracks. A third of the rail routes is already in the hands of third party companies and no longer of Deutsche Bahn.
The two pillars of the Fourth Railway Package
Technical pillar: this comprises licences for rolling stock and safety certificates valid throughout the EU granted by the European Railway Agency (ERA) for rail enterprises. The conclusion of the technical pillar is intended to increase the economies of scale for railway enterprises operating throughout the EU, to reduce administrative costs and to speed up procedures. In addition, it is intended to contribute to preventing any form of discrimination in the awarding of safety certificates and vehicle licensing. An overall aim is also to improve the technical interoperability of rail transport in Europe.
Political pillar: this contains the complete market opening by 2019 for national rail passenger transport along with a stricter separation of the infrastructure operators from rail companies. Here the fundamental principle applies that infrastructure operators and railway companies must be legally separate. Infrastructure operators that at the time of the coming into effect of the proposed changes are part of a vertically integrated enterprise can, under strict conditions, be exempted from this institutional separation.
On 8 October 2015 the Council adopted a Common Position on the political pillar of the fourth railway package and thereby completed the first reading. With regard to the compulsory tender process in rail transport, the text basically envisages compulsory tendering, however with far-reaching exceptions and a transitional period of another ten years. The text of the Council on the “Governance” Directive 2012/34/EU stipulates a market opening from 2020 for purely domestic passenger transport. Exceptions apply where the economic equilibrium of public service transport is impaired. The substantial demands for separation contained in the original Commission proposal for integrated rail companies were largely toned down. The next step in the legislative procedure on the two legal acts is the so-called Trialogue between the Commission, the Council and the Parliament. The first Trialogues have already begun and the Dutch Presidency of the Council wishes them to be completed before Easter 2016. The technical pillar of the Fourth Railway Package, consisting of the new version of the Rail Interoperability Directive, Safety Directive and ERA Regulation had already passed through the Trialogue, along with the Proposal to repeal the VO 1192/69 on the financing of railway intersections. In a next step the Council is formally to submit the coordinated language versions of the texts to the Parliament.
Some member states would like the technical pillar to be approved as quickly as possible and separately from the political pillar. In contrast, other countries would prefer the whole package to be adopted after the Trialogue on the political pillar.
The BDI advocates a speedy completion of the 4th railway package under the Dutch Presidency of the Council. In particular, the completion of the technical pillar is of importance for German industry. Furthermore, it is to be welcomed that integrated concerns continue to be possible.