In all the countries of the European Union, the entities in charge of the management of the rail infrastructure are now separate, at least in accounting terms, from the companies operating rail transport services; this is one of the imperative applications of Dir 91/440, relating to the development of the Community’s railways, adopted on 29.07.91.
The objective of this separation is to give to all the interested rail undertakings – historic or new – transparent and neutral access to the right to use the rail network, for both international and national services, in the same way that States or management companies conceived regionally for this purpose put the road infrastructure at non-discriminatory conditions at the disposal of any qualified transporter.
One of the implementing Directives of Dir 91/440, relating to the allocation of rail infrastructure capacities, pricing of the rail infrastructure and certification in respect of safety (Dir 2001/14), makes provision for the possibility of the Member States authorising the granting of train paths not only to railway undertakings (RUs), but also to (authorised) applicants being interested in having direct access, such as regular client operators, who then sub-contract them to RUs which are suppliers of rail traction services.
The UIRR demands general recognition of this principle within the EU, but also that the infrastructure managers maintain a register of all the allocated train paths and of their beneficiaries so that its members, which bear the financial risk, also benefit from access to the train paths that they would for reasons of operational expedience have booked at the intervention of a RU, this in case they were to wish to change them. This arrangement also involves direct access to information on train status (possible delays, etc.).
The IMs are grouped within RailNet Europe (RNE), a structure whose objective is to co-ordinate the awarding of the international train paths. The description of the tasks of the IMs figure in particular in EU Directive 2001/14. In the same way as the road transport infrastructure, the management of a viable rail infrastructure is seen as a relevant task of the public sector. Already now, certain principal routes are approaching their capacity limits. Following massive investment in the high-speed passenger transport infrastructure over the past twenty years, development of viable goods transport routes is now urgently required.
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