Competition policy and legislation aim to ensure that transport markets operate efficiently. This is especially important when newly competitive markets are emerging as a result of either liberalisation or repeal of specific antitrust rules, as has happened in the transport sector in recent years. The Commission remains vigilant to any signs of price fixing, market sharing or other kinds of anticompetitive behaviour which would impede effective competition and thus harm EU consumers' welfare.
In September 2010, the Commission proposed a recast of a directive establishing a single European railway area, aiming to increase competition in the rail market by improving access to terminals and maintenance facilities and strengthening the powers of national rail regulators. The proposal currently is being considered by the European Parliament and the European Council.
The Commission cooperates to varying degrees with third countries in the field of antitrust, which also concerns the transport sector.
The EU-US air transport agreement signed in April 2007 (so-called "open skies agreement") includes provisions for strengthening cooperation between the Commission and the US Department of Transportation (DOT) in the field of air transport competition.
In 2008, the Commission and the DOT launched a joint research project on airline alliances, to increase their understanding of transatlantic air services and the effects of alliances on airline competition, and to examine possible changes in the role of alliances following the EU-US open aviation agreement.
The culmination of the project was the publication of a report on the role of alliances in the market for transatlantic air services in November 2010. The report concluded that despite significant differences in their legal regimes, the Commission and the DOT can work to promote compatible regulatory approaches aiming at pro-competitive outcomes for consumers and the airline industry alike.
In the area of maritime transport, the Commission continues to advocate the gradual removal of existing exemptions for liner shipping "conferences" (a type of price-fixing cartel). To that end, the Commission has held talks with transport ministries and competition authorities in several countries, including Japan, China and the US. Furthermore, in the context of the Global Regulatory Maritime Summit, the Commission has regular dialogues with China and the US on their respective regulatory frameworks applicable to the maritime sector, in particular in view of the global trend towards increased cooperation in the liner shipping market.
About the transport sector
Transport is critical to the everyday lives of European citizens. Efficient and effective transport facilitates the free flow of people, goods and services, contributes to productivity in all other economic sectors, and is a vital part of Europe's sustainable growth strategy. Indeed, the transport sector accounts for about 3.7% of European GDP and for around 5.1% of employment in the EU.
Along with other sectors, the transport industry has suffered from the economic downturn. From 2010 into the beginning of 2011, passenger numbers and freight volumes recovered steadily, but now the pace of recovery is slowing down.
Related transport pages in other Commission websites: