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Public service obligations

Overview: Public service obligations in transport

The main objectives of European public transport policy are to provide safe, efficient and high-quality passenger transport services by using regulated competition. It takes social, environmental and regional development factors into account to guarantee their transparency and performance. 

Many public passenger transport services that society needs as part of its general interest cannot be run commercially, so the relevant national, regional or local EU authorities must be able to make certain they are provided. There are several ways for them to do this: by awarding exclusive rights to those running public services, compensating them financially, and also by defining rules for how public transport is operated.

Article 14 TFEU and Protocol No 26 on services of general interest annexed to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) set out the general principles of how Member States define and provide services of general economic interest.

The European Union has developed legislation to avoid disparities between Member States in the procedures and conditions they apply to the execution of public service obligations.

This legislation differs slightly between the different forms of transport - particularly on competition - and takes the specific features of each transport means into account, including its operational characteristics.

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