FTE Participation at the 23rd Florence Rail Forum on new rules for better rail capacity management

On September 29th, the Florence School of Regulation (FSR) hosted its 23rd Railway Forum. This distinguished event brought together experts from various domains, including Infrastructure Managers (IMs), Railway Undertakings (RUs), Regulatory Bodies, as well as representatives from the sector and interest groups. The forum's central theme revolved around the European Commission's proposed Regulation on the use of railway infrastructure capacity within the Single European Railway Area, a topic of intensive discussion within FTE’s working groups.


Forum Train Europe (FTE) participated not only in the discussions at this gathering but also as a panellist for the session titled "Formalising Dialogue for Capacity Planning and Allocation" between IMs and RUs. FTE raised questions, frequently voiced by its members regarding the proposed Regulation, and shared insights gleaned from the TTR Capacity Needs Announcement (CNA) pilot. The presentation delivered by FTE is available for download. For access to other presentations from the event, please click here.


The European Commission was engaged in the event as an observer, seeking valuable insights and feedback from sector experts on specific aspects of the Regulation. The forum was organised by the European University Institute (EUI) in an excellent way, facilitating an atmosphere characterised by openness and constructive dialogue.


In addition to their participation in the conference, FTE was offered the opportunity to contribute to the Observer Leaflet produced during the event. In the context of Market Dialogue, FTE provided the following comment:

“The European Commission has recently published a proposal for the Regulation on the use of railway infrastructure capacity. This initiative, inspired by the sector programme TTR, aims to introduce measures to better manage, coordinate and thereby increase the capacity of railways. In general, the draft regulation consists of many elements that would definitely bring the sector forward to the single European railway area. Nevertheless, it also triggered debates when it comes to the reflection of customer needs, production costs and competitiveness. The new system gives infrastructure managers (IMs) a more active role in the capacity pre-planning. The IMs are designing capacities and publishing capacity products, which have to be followed by the Railway Undertakings (RUs). If this would be the future, then it has to be ensured that the IMs design coordinated and high-quality capacity that fits the market needs and flexibly adapts to unexpected changes (such as war, pandemic, change in logistic flows, change in passenger habits). The Regulation aims to secure the market reflection in the IMs´ work via a system of 12 types of consultations taking place annually or more often. Nonetheless, it is the IM who does always the first step, and capacity applicants are left only with reactive action. This goes hand in hand with the risk of only limited adaptations of IM-plans possible, after the IM already invested effort in the initial proposal, potentially including cross-border alignment with other IMs. In the end, the RUs might be left with the proposed binding capacities (take or leave). It has to be added that the RUs perceive the capacity products not in an isolated way, their production concepts are built on a combination of commercial and technical paths and also slots in service facilities. A single part not being compatible with the IMs’ plan can make the whole service unprofitable. Moreover, the RUs, not IMs, are the entities that are in touch with the customers or design the transport services at their own commercial risk. Building the strategic planning on the active market input is absolutely necessary, otherwise, the new system

might give a little bit more capacity, but on the other hand, create rigidity and drops the flexibility and competitiveness of railways. The discussion in the Florence Forum underlined not only the need for market input in capacity planning but also for follow-up iterative dialogue between IMs and RUs. The recent pilots and initiatives demonstrated that a higher level of transparency is needed. A black-box process, where is not clear how the input is considered in the capacity planning, has to be avoided. The strategic planning is a unique opportunity to detect capacity shortages earlier than today. We can get a good chance to overcome the capacity conflicts by looking for alternatives with the respective capacity applicants and launching mitigating measures on the IM side. The IMs can take the role of coordinator, helping the stakeholders to find compromises. But IMs shall not decide themselves (in a black-box) how the solutions should look like. If that becomes the reality, the regulation will maybe bring better capacity management, but not change the modal split, which has been actually the original and real goal of the Greening package”

Comment in: MONTERO-PASCUAL, Juan J., FINGER, Matthias, GORTAZAR ENRICH, Natalia, New rules for better rail capacity management, EUI, RSC, Policy Brief, 2023/16, [Florence School of Regulation], [Transport] - https://hdl.handle.net/1814/76024

The full leaflet can be accessed for further information here.