One-stop shop, a source of controversies

The railway freight transport has faced serious problems for more than thirty years, from different reasons: industrial transformations, development of highways and the new demands of companies in terms of logistics. The poor progress of the railway freight transport is motivated by several factors, among which the slow competition development and interoperability, but also the lack of capacity for a reliable and high-quality infrastructure for the international  freight transport.

Ensuring an appropriate priority for freight trains and improving intermodality along the corridors are the two objectives for which railway operators have militated in the past years. In 2010, the law supporting their goals, “A European railway network for a competitive freight transport”, was issued. The objective is well-known to everybody: reducing  traffic by establishing the international freight corridors, managed by infrastructure authorities at cross-border level, as well as “the one-stop shops” for allocating routes. But establishing these one-stop shops is one of the points about which operators are still reluctant.
“Introducing completely new one-stop shops to handle customer requests for paths on international rail freight corridors adds a completely unnecessary administration layer,” believes CER Executive Director Johannes Ludewig. “Even worse, European parliamentarians are mandating the use of complicated and expensive IT systems, which do not correspond to any market demand. If such systems are put in place, it will cost the railways millions of Euros in development, migration and maintenance to absolutely no avail”, continues Johannes Ludewig. Competition between the different infrastructure managers needs to be encouraged.
The Regulation stipulates that “to facilitate the infrastructure capacity demands for international railway freight transport, it is necessary to designate and establish a one-stop shop for each rail freight transport corridor”.
“The resort to a one-stop-shop for all undertakings requesting an international path should not be made compulsory. The traditional way to request paths via each national infrastructure managers or via one lead-infrastructure-manager should be kept at least as a fall-back solution in case the one-stop-shop fails”.
“The One-Stop-Shop is a technical body, set up by the Management Board of a rail freight corridor. Its primary role is to provide information to applicants, to receive and answer capacity requests and to allocate the dedicated capacity on the corridor (pre-arranged train paths and ad-hoc capacity)”, says Keir Fitch, DG Move official responsible for transport. He adds that the one-stop shop will help to make the application process for international train paths smoother than currently.
To achieve continuity along the corridors will be a process which will take some time. The users of the corridors – which already act on a European transport market where borders have largely disappeared – will for sure be a driving force in this process.

[ by Elena Ilie ]
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