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has been adopted on 8 July 2008


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18 October 2007



Directive 91/440

The first piece of major legislation goes back to 1991 and the adoption of a directive by the Council of Ministers (91/440/EEC). This introduced a degree of market opening into certain areas of rail transport, above all prompting the railways to concentrate more on competitiveness.

The directive requires Member States:

  • to manage railway undertakings in such a way that these understand the need for competitiveness and sound financial management. Member States must thus, jointly with existing public railway operators, take steps to reduce the indebtedness of railway undertakings.

  • to make railway undertakings independent by giving them a budget and system of accounts which are separate from those of the State.

  • on specific terms, to guarantee rights of access for rail transport operators in other Member States to international combined transport services. The aim here is to open up the Community markets in these sectors. It has also created the possibility to open the market for international freight and passenger services under certain conditions.

  • to have separate accounting for railway infrastructure (track and related equipment) and the operation of transport services as such. The aim here is greater transparency in the use of public funds, but also the ability to measure the actual performance of these two branches better. It is with this requirement in mind that a number of Member States have in recent years set up bodies which manage the railway infrastructure but are separate from the railway companies, which continue to manage the carriage of passengers and freight.

Operating licences and allocation of paths

In 1995 the Council of Ministers adopted Directive 95/18/EC, which set common criteria for the licensing of railway undertakings established in the European Union. To obtain an operating licence the railway undertaking must meet a number of specific conditions, such as good repute, financial standing and professional competence plus civil liability.

Rules on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity (Directive 95/19/EC) were also adopted in 1995. This Directive has been replaced in 2001 by Directive 2001/14. The latter determines the framework conditions under which railway undertakings are allowed to make use of the railway network. It contains provisions on the allocation and charging of infrastructure capacity; the obligation for infrastructure managers to publish a network statement and the creation of a Regulatory Body in each Member State that shall monitor railway market developments and has to act as a referee for conflicts that might arise concerning the use or charges to be paid for the rail network.  The body responsible for managing the railway infrastructure must maintain a balance between income from fees and State contributions on the one hand, and infrastructure spending on the other. Member States must also ensure that the prices charged are market prices, and must not charge fees which are unfair or discriminatory.

The Directive does not, however, cover railway undertakings whose activity is confined to urban, suburban and regional transport or the road vehicle shuttle service through the Channel Tunnel.

With the implementation of Directive 2001/13, Member States must notify the Commission of all issued railway licences.


last update: 15-12-2008