New coalition agreement contains strong support for rail transport
In the coalition agreement of February 7, 2018, the CDU, CSU and SPD have committed to the strengthening of the railway in Germany and to an integrated DB Group. The coalition agreement includes numerous topics that are important to the entire industry. A railway pact between the Federal Government and industry is expected to result in a two-fold increase in passenger numbers by the year 2030, and is also expected to boost rail freight. Focus topics for the sector from a DB Group perspective:
- Continued capital expenditure increase providing the funds needed to maintain the current status (performance and financing agreement; LuFV III) as well as expansion and new construction, implementation of a planning acceleration law and application of building information modeling (BIM);
- Implementation of a master plan for rail freight transport with train-path price support and realization of the 740 m network;
- Increased digitalization including the expansion of the European command and control technology ETCS;
- Further work on a synchronized timetable for all of Germany including a target schedule and appropriate hub measures;
- Strengthening of the railway within a context of climate and environmental protection, including appropriate measures in the 2050 climate protection program, a program for electrification and alternative drives as well as continued commitment to further noise reduction.
Regulatory and transport policy topics
BNetzA approves train-path prices for 2019
The competent ruling chamber approved the train-path prices for the schedule year 2018/2019 on January 17, including the proposed 1.8% increase of train-path prices in regional rail passenger transport. This follows from the statutory linking of the train-path price development to the growth rate of the regionalization funds. As set forth in the resolution to the 2018 train-path pricing system (TPS), the proposed train-path prices in long-distance rail passenger transport were increased as part of the approval and lowered in the rail freight transport by about € 28 million, respectively. The decision is not yet final.
The BNetzA has to redetermine the equity yield rate in the energy grid
On March 22, 2018, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court decided that the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) had a faulty approach in its method to determine the equity yield rate. About 1,100 municipal utilities and network operators, including DB Energy, had lodged a complaint against the permitted equity yield rate which BNetzA had reduced. The court did not provide any guidelines regarding the new rate. The BNetzA has the option to appeal the court decision before the German Federal Supreme Court.
Law to accelerate planning and approval processes
The hearing of the associations in relation to a legislative draft for the acceleration of planning and approval processes as part of the transport sector of the BMVI took place in June 2018. The draft focuses on the BMVI’s strategy to accelerate planning processes and also comprises the bundling of hearing and plan approval procedures at the Federal Railway Authority (EBA) recommended by the planning acceleration innovation forum. This step also occurred in view of the increasing digitalization and introduction of BIM. The bundling enables the EBA to continue processing digital planning submitted by DB Group on both procedural levels; this ensures that interfaces are avoided. Furthermore, the draft contains a regulation for Federal rail structures which sets forth that the traffic development forecast to date may continue to be used as the basis for ongoing proceedings even if the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan is amended, as well as an update and expansion of the projects for the review of which the German Federal Administrative Court is to be the responsible court of the first and last instance.
New road traffic regulations
On May 17, 2018, the third and last part of the EU legislative proposals under the strategy “Europe on the Move” for road traffic was submitted, including a proposal to introduce emissions targets for heavy commercial vehicles. According to the proposal, trucks are to reduce their CO₂ emissions by 15% by 2025 as compared to 2019. By 2030, the reduction is to reach 30%. Further elements of the package are a message for the creation of a digital environment for the exchange of information in the transport area (“e-freight”), a proposal that aims to make approval processes for TEN-T projects (Trans-European-Network-Transport) leaner and regulations that improve the energy efficiency in the heavy load transport on the road.
Proposals for a multi-year EU financial framework
On May 2, 2018, the Commission proposed a budget amounting to € 1,279 billion for the new EU budget for the years 2021 to 2027. The funds of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) are to be increased to € 42.3 billion for investments in trans-European transport, digital and energy networks, of which close to € 31 billion are earmarked for investments in transport networks.
French rail reform resolved
The main topics of the rail reform in France which was enacted in June 2018 are the gradual opening of the national rail passenger transport market to competition (market opening in long-distance rail passenger transport between December 2019 and December 2023, with longer periods for the Paris metropolitan area, with long-distance transport operated on a purely commercial basis as of 2020), the reorganization of the SNCF into a stock corporation permanently owned by the government, the removal of public servant status for new employees at the SNCF as of the end of 2020, the assignment of the passenger stations segment to the rail infrastructure operator SNCF Réseau and the order arranging an employee transfer in the event of an operator change in local rail passenger transport. In connection with the rail reform, large-scale strike actions have occurred in France since April.