Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

They’ll try anything

Posted in Customer service, Europe, Great Britain, Ireland, Politics by Chairman Pip on 13 January 2011

Iarnród Éireann have just published what seems to be their attempt to fulfil their obligations in regards to the European Commission’s directives on rail transport throughout the EU. The preamble to this document sets out exactly what its intention is:

This Network Statement is published in accordance with Statutory Instrument No. 55 of 2010 – European Communities (Railway Infrastructure) Regulations 2010 for the purpose of giving effect to EU Directive 2001/14 of the European Parliament on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of rail infrastructure.

Whether this means the Irish Government and Iarnród Éireann have given up their attempts to extend their derogation from theregulations (under threat of legal action from the EU) I don’t know. But it seems that they are making (or at least appearing to make) an effort to open the Irish network to competition. Or so you’d think. Because as yet, the European Commission have not issued directives regarding the provision of domestic passenger services. International rail freight is legislated under EU Directive 2001/12, which was clarified and extended to include domestic rail freight under 2004/51. International passenger rail received similar legislation under 2007/58, which is what will legally allow operators to make use of the Channel Tunnel (provided the whole distributed traction issue can be sorted, but that’s another story). However, several countries voiced significant opposition to the general deregulation of domestic passenger operations. Which is why Iarnród Éireann, in their network statement, can legitimately put the following:

The Network Statement is published for the use of applicants for infrastructure capacity in the Republic of Ireland. Railway undertakings can request capacity for international freight traffic within the EU area as well as domestic freight traffic. Domestic passenger services may be operated only by Iarnród Éireann.

This would suggest that, even where the line is closed and Iarnród Éireann have no wish to run trains on it, they will fight with “great vengeance and furious anger” anyone that attempts to operate passenger trains on any part of their rail network. Which brings us to the efforts of the South Wexford Integrated Forum For Transport to restore passenger services to the Waterford-Rosslare line. Iarnród Éireann’s competition phobia suggests that they will continue to fight tooth and nail to keep anyone from running trains on this line, which is perhaps one explanation for the overtly worded statement above. This may well have the effect of putting the wind up any potential partner that SWIFFT has been negotiating or would negotiate with in their efforts as, given that not only is Iarnród Éireann the passenger operator but also the infrastructure manager, anyone making a passenger access application would not likely be successful, even in spite of another part of the Network Statement:

Iarnród Éireann shall take account of the views of interested parties and allocate capacity based on

 A “fair and non-discriminatory manner” is highly subjective, especially when the authority a potential operator would apply to also provides that potential operator’s competition. But, we then come to the prescriptions of SI55, which is the shorthand descriptor of the European Communities (Railway Infrastructure) Regulations 2010. This is a piece of legislation that incorporates the various European directives into Irish statute law, including 2007/58. However, in the preamble to the regulations, there is this little sentence:

“international passenger service” means a passenger service where the train crosses at least one border of a Member State and where the principal purpose of the service is to carry passengers between stations located in different Member States; the train may be joined or split or both, and the different sections may have different origins and destinations, provided that all carriages cross at least one border;

Now I’ve done a search on the UK Statute Law database and can find nothing similar in any UK statute or statutory instrument. The closest that I’ve found comes in the Railways Act 1993:

‘international services’ means services the provision of which requires an international licence
Railways Act Section 6(2)

And even this was replaced by Statutory Instrument 3050 of 2005, which omits the definition of an international service altogether. Does it strike you that there could be some degree of collusion between the government and Iarnród Éireann to prevent any sort of passenger rail competition? Because my argument has been in regards to the Waterford-Rosslare route “why not class it as an international service by having it run from the UK?”. By having a fully integrated rail-sea-rail service, perhaps starting at Swansea, running to Fishguard Harbour to meet the ferry, then continuing on the train from Rosslare Europort to Waterford, it could easily be stated that you have an international service, especially if it were run by the ferry operator (in this case Stena Line). So, my question is this – if an operator has a licence in the United Kingdom, and sought to run services like I’ve just described, would Ireland be able to block access to its network using the definition of an “international passenger service” in the European Communities (Railway Infrastructure) Regulations 2010? Or would Iarnród Éireann be forced to allow them access by using the provision of the original EU Directive that the regulations are based on? Of course, what would be a hell of a lot simpler would be for the Teachta Dála representing the constituencies affected by the closure of the Waterford-Rosslare to merely propose amending the law to make it easier for a domestic open-access operator to gain access to the line.

Iarnród Éireann Network Statement 2011
“Closure of Mallow Beet plant unnecessary”

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