Raquel Sánchez urges all EU countries to ensure unhindered rail liberalisation

News - 2023.10.18

"Liberalisation of services is a central element of European policy for the railway of the future. That is why we need all countries to guarantee railway liberalisation without any kind of obstacle, just like Spain, which, in an orderly manner, embarked on a path to open the market to new operators in 2021, a path we are continuing on today", said the minister during the inauguration today in Madrid of the conference "Railway Liberalisation: New Challenges and Opportunities".

This event, organised by the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda (Mitma), through the Railway Infrastructure Administrator (Adif), is part of the programme of events scheduled to take place during the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union.

During the conference, which was also attended by the president of Adif, María Luisa Domínguez, the challenges and opportunities posed by the process of liberalisation of rail services in Europe were discussed. Also in attendance were industry experts, policy makers from European countries, infrastructure managers and operators, who are pioneers in opening up their national markets.

Rail liberalisation

In her speech, the acting minister recalled that the railway system is one of the pillars of European transport policy and that its development and opening up "is already a clear hallmark of how we Europeans consider the future of our greater integration" and stands out "as a central element of the European policy for the railway of the future.

In this scenario, Raquel Sánchez stressed the idea that the liberalisation of the railway market be consolidated as a key factor of progress and also as "the best service we can give to the European citizens who, with their efforts, have contributed to the important investments allocated to the railway".

For this reason, Spain, together with some other European Union countries, has made a firm commitment to open up the rail market for both freight and passengers.

In this regard, the acting minister pointed out that liberalisation of the freight market has meant a change in this railway segment, both in its technology and new markets, as well as in its business structure, something that is crucial for the European single market.

Spanish model

The head of Mitma gave as an example the Spanish model of railway liberalisation, which has a proactive infrastructure manager (Adif), which makes available to the market as much capacity as possible, adjusting its charges to facilitate the use of the network.

"With the opening of the market, we have made our high-quality high-speed network competitive with more supply, more demand and better prices. In record time we have become a great example of effective liberalisation with real competition between Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Malaga and Seville", said the acting minister.

As a proof of this, she highlighted the latest report from the National Markets and Competition Commission, which has confirmed the record number of high-speed passengers in the second quarter of the year with more than 8 million passengers and also a generalised reduction in ticket prices in those corridors where there is competition: Madrid-Barcelona and Madrid-Valencia.

The acting minister applauded the fact that this is the first high-speed network with three different operators in the same corridor and that in Spain we are already preparing for the second wave of railway liberalisation in the passenger market, which will be completed with the entry of operators in the corridors of the framework agreement and also new destinations such as Murcia and Valladolid, where two companies will operate in competition.

Thus, Mitma stressed that this second phase of liberalisation is "yet another sign of our clear commitment to make citizens consider rail transport as an attractive alternative for their journeys and trips, which we hope will be the commitment of all Member States". This commitment is also reflected in the increase in international rail journeys, such as the services offered since this summer by the Spanish operator Renfe between Spain and France: Barcelona-Lyon and Madrid-Marseille.

The challenges of rail liberalisation

During her speech at this forum, the acting minister pointed out that railway liberalisation brings with it new technological and innovation challenges, as well as network congestion problems that need to be addressed.

The head of the Department acknowledged that the increase in supply and frequency brought about by liberalisation means that infrastructure managers and railway operators have to pay special attention to the reliability and punctuality of services and are constantly working to improve ticket purchasing systems and the compatibility of ticket control systems.

"Numerous challenges, but with the confidence that it is worth facing them in order to build the railway of the future", she concluded.

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