The externalization of freight car maintenance implies an economically effective component; however, the results depend on the form of property. A major factor for any wagon owner who resorts to maintenance services is to ensure traffic safety and security in compliance with railway regulations.
In terms of service efficiency and quality, private company maintenance is totally different from state-owned company maintenance, more precisely the branches and facilities set up by national operators who own a large rolling stock fleet. “When rolling stock maintenance, especially freight cars, is performed by stat-owned companies, the quality of the services is not very high because there is no maintenance cost or control. The contract relies on the budget and not on the quality of the services; therefore, there’s not development, no progress”, said Florentin Nicolae. Let us take an example. Following the externalization of the repair activity, CFR Marfă and CFR IRV signed frame agreements which stipulate the necessary conditions for the execution of repair works on freight cars, as well as the cost value and means of payment. The value of such a contract was of RON 50 Billion (in 2002, the equivalent of EUR 1.2 Million in 2011) and required an additional RON 35 Billion (around EUR 850.000 in 2011). “In this case, the expenses increased instead of decreasing. By 2004, the contract amounted to a value of RON 227.4 Billion (EUR 5.5 Million in 2011). This was due to the fact that the contract failed to set specific indicators in terms of quality and productivity”, explained Nicolae, outlining that, this way, the quality of the rolling stock fleet decreases and the transport operator losses its market share, because he fails to comply with the standards imposed by the customer. Aside from state-owned companies, the market dynamics led to the emergence of private companies that ensure maintenance services. In this context, the competition raised the level of maintenance services in terms of cost/customer demand ratio. “Private companies have the capacity to create a competitive environment, imposing the compliance with the quality/price/efficiency ratio; they are also more flexible and available. In this case, any operator would resort to the services provided by the best supplier”, explains Florentin Nicolae. In order to increase the quality of their services, private companies will always invest in new technologies, staff and equipment, providing services that comply with the standards imposed by national or international organizations. “The most important aspect is to set the same standard for all customers. Also, the certifications offer the possibility of providing and performing maintenance services, including freight car refurbishment. If things are not clear, the costs increase, affecting even the rail freight transport operator”, added Nicolae. This way, private companies that provide maintenance services are motivated to ensure a level of quality which offers a certain level of attractiveness. Based on the type of services provided, the private sector contribute to the improvement of the technical state of freight cars owned by operators and, implicitly, to the increase in the safety and availability of the rolling stock fleet.
by Pamela Luică