View of a high-speed train crossing a viaduct in Bubierca, Spain - ©BELGA/AGEFOTOSTOCK/ P. Salaverría 

Competition to provide better rail passenger services should warm up under draft rules voted in the European Parliament on Wednesday. National authorities that today give rail service contracts to a single operator would have to put them out to tender or justify not doing so. New and/or small operators would have to be given better access to rail infrastructure, and complex authorisation procedures for putting trains on tracks would be simplified.

To improve rail service quality and focus on tangible improvements for the passenger, a list of efficiency and service quality criteria should be set for public service contracts, say Parliament’s amendments, voted on Wednesday, to draft common rules for awarding public service contracts in the rail passenger sector.

National authorities could tender out public service contracts or award contracts directly to a preferred rail operator, but the EU rules would set a maximum duration for such contracts and require the authorities to justify awarding them directly on efficiency criteria such as punctuality of services, cost-efficiency, frequency of train operations, and customer satisfaction, says Parliament.


Public service operators that are selected by the authorities should grant their staff working conditions that comply with binding national, regional or local social standards and/or rules for transfer of staff in the event of a change of operator. They would also have to comply with the relevant collective agreements and ensure decent employment and working conditions, adds the text.

The proposed rules also aim to create opportunities for new operators to provide services and to give all operators equal access to track infrastructure, while safeguarding the important role of public service contracts. Size limits on public service contracts, defined by setting a minimum number of contracts to be awarded in each member state according to traffic volume, should help smaller operators to compete for public contracts.

MEPs also backed rules designed to harmonize safety certification for rail operators and cut the time and cost of vehicle authorization procedures.

For further information, please see background note (link to the right).


Next steps

This vote confirms Parliament's first reading position.When the Council has set out its own position, the two sides will negotiate the final wording of the rules.

Procedure:  Co-decision, first reading