Fairer, more competitive and cleaner - these are the three slogans, which describe how the European Commission wants transport on Europe’s roads to be will. To achieve this vision, it has submitted as much as 15 proposals of Regulations and Directives over the past two years. This includes the access to the market by bus and coach services and road haulage, where the Commission would like to see more liberalisation. The Transport Committee of the European Parliament has now channelled both submissions in the right direction.
On 22nd January 2019, the Transport Committee of the European Parliament voted on the Regulation on the access to the international market by coach and bus services. One of the key issues of the proposal is the regulation on the approval procedures of coach and bus services. Currently, the national authority is able to reject the application of a bus company to operate regular services if this service would endanger the economic equilibrium of an already existing public service contract. This is of particular importance as especially with regard to regional transport, the public sector has to support regular bus services as only few routes and services can be operated on a self-sufficient economy basis. However, if especially these few services were faced with competition by additional operators, it would have a negative impact on the financing of the entire public transport network.
The Commission has proposed to admit this option only in case of routes, which are shorter than 100 km. Longer routes, above all concerning long-distances buses, shall be promoted by this approach. However, the majority of MEPs in the Transport Committee voted in favour of those applications, which would grant authorities the option to reject these in view of endangering the socio-economic co-financed public transport also in future.
Another major point of criticism regarding the Commission proposal concerns the access to bus terminals. The Commission proposed that a bus company may only be denied access to a terminal on the basis of a lack of capacities. The Transport Committee has now amended its report by saying that access may also be denied for other reasons, for example due to overdue payments of stand-by fees or other infringements. The Committee also cancelled the provision, according to which the operators of bus terminals have to initiate consultations with all interested transport companies if the capacities of the terminal are lower than the applied for usage by companies with the objective to grant access to all. Nevertheless, the report means that private companies will find it easier to get access to bus terminals, even if the risk exists that the existing public transport will be affected.
It is therefore regrettable that no majority was gained in the Committee to reject the entire Commission proposal. From the point of view of the Chamber of Labour there is no necessity to amend the current regulations. There is neither a need for an additional liberalisation of the market, nor does the proposal achieve any additional aimed at targets – fighting climate change, strengthening and improving competitiveness of the European industry nor does it improve the mobility of Europe’s citizens.
Following the vote in the Transport Committee, the plenary vote on the report will probably take place before the EU elections in May 2019. However, it might then still take some time until this dossier is finally concluded as the Council has not yet initiated negotiations between the Member States. Only once these have been concluded it will be possible to start the trilogue negotiations between Council and Parliament.
Relaxing the cabotage for road haulage
Already on 10th January 2019, did the Transport Committee adopt the report on the access to the road haulage market, which among other relaxes the cabotage regulations. This means domestic transport services by foreign companies. Currently, these are only permitted to carry out three domestic journeys within seven days. Whilst the Commission had proposed to permit an unlimited number of journeys for five days, the Transport Committee lowered this period to three days. A majority for the current regulation was gained in the Council. However, whether trilogue negotiations will begin now is more than uncertain; so far, the dossier has been negotiated in a package together with the regulations on applying the Directives for posting drivers in the road transport sectors as well as on driving times and rest periods. In contrast to the market access, in the case of these two the Transport Committee has been unable to agree a position.