4th railway package proposed today by the European Commission

The proposals focus on four key areas:

Standards and approvals

The Commission wants to cut the administrative costs of rail companies and facilitate the entrance of new operators into the market.

Under the new proposals, the European Rail Agency will become a "one stop shop." issuing EU wide vehicle authorisations for placing on the market as well as EU wide safety certificates for operators. Currently rail authorisations and safety certificates are issued by each Member State.


Opening rail services to new players

To encourage innovation, efficiency and better value for money, the Commission is proposing that domestic passenger railways should be opened up to new entrants and services from December 2019.

Companies will be able to offer domestic rail passenger services across the EU: either by offering competing commercial services or through bidding for public service rail contracts, which account for a majority (over 90%) of EU rail journeys and will become subject to mandatory tendering.

Strengthening infrastructure managers

The Commission is proposing to strengthen infrastructure managers so that they control all the functions at the heart of the rail network – including infrastructure investment planning, day-to-day operations and maintenance, as well as timetabling. Faced with numerous complaints from users, the Commission considers that the infrastructure managers must have operational and financial independence from any transport operator running the trains. However, the Commission explains that it can accept that a vertically integrated or "holding structure" may also deliver the necessary independence, with strict "Chinese walls" to ensure the necessary, legal, financial and operational separation.

To safeguard this independence, in view of full passenger market opening in 2019, rail undertakings forming part of a vertically integrated structure could be prevented from operating in other Member States if they have not first satisfied the Commission that all safeguards are in place to ensure a level playing field in practice, and a fair competition is possible in their home market.


Under the EU regulatory framework, Member States will have the possibility to protect workers by requiring new contractors to take them on when public service contracts are transferred, going beyond the general EU requirements on transfers of undertakings.

Polis is following closely the issue and invites its members to express their opinion on whether Polis should communicate a common position to the Commission.