Dutch Railways train at Vlissingen Station

Judge finds no issue with direct award process for Dutch Railways’ passenger services

In May, another judge will rule on the legality of a direct award. NS

A Dutch court has ruled against the Federation of Transport Companies (FMN) in their case against the government. The FMN had objected to the government’s aim to grant the incumbent operator, Dutch Railways (NS), another direct award for passenger service on the main network. Another ruling on the matter is expected in May.

The FMN, which includes the likes of Arriva, Transdev and Keolis, are aiming for a greater share in Dutch rail passenger service, also on the main network. The government, on the other hand, wants to give NS another direct award for the main network for the duration of 10 years. This move is supported by the main labour unions as well. Through their case, the FMN wanted to have a judge halt the award process. For now, a Dutch court has ruled that it cannot be assumed that the government is in violation of European rules and regulation, and therefore the award process can continue. In May, another judge will rule on the legality of a direct award in light of those European rules and regulations.

The association argues that the envisioned move by the Dutch government would be against European law. The FMN finds ALLRAIL, which advocates market opening for rail in Europe, on its side. This group has been keeping a close watch of the situation not just in the Netherlands, but also in Belgium. There, the federal government is targeting another direct award for NMBS/SNCB.

EU regulation requires a level playing field in the passenger rail services market. This means that passenger rail services must be put out to tender in line with EU regulations. The assessment memorandum recommends that the tendering be organised centrally under the leadership of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. ALLRAIL might file a complaint with the European Commission, depending on what happens in de Low Countries.

A major goal of the EU is to encourage the modal shift towards rail transport. The European Commission sees market opening as the way forward, and recent new entrants in for example on the Spanish high-speed market has led to cheaper train tickets and an increase in passengers. In France, change is coming also to the regional train market, which are now tendered in the first regions.

Debate is also underway in Finland, where current passenger rail service contracts are expiring in 2030. Publicly funded passenger rail traffic in Finland will need to be reorganised in 2031 to meet the EU’s agreed-upon goals. The Finnish ministry of Transport is inviting public comments on the matter, wanting to achieve level playing field in the market for the next decade.

The first half of this piece was first published by Dutch sister publication OVPro.

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Author: Nick Augusteijn

Former Chief Editor of RailTech.com

1 comment op “Judge finds no issue with direct award process for Dutch Railways’ passenger services”

bönström bönström|26.04.23|18:13

Hm…, “encourage” is best and sustainably provided, by a railway, an infrastructure, that literally is sustainable – and redundant, thus safely with safe margins for future, by market, requested.
Currently, however, short of both, price remains high, too high – and railways remains, at the mercy of taxpayers.
If allowing for such, something is wrong in EU!
(Goal of EU was/is nearness – for soundly and sustainably added edge towards, far away, low salary, etc. manufactured – not for subsidies!)

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