Proposed increase in track access charges threatens European rail freight

Proposed increase in track access charges threatens European rail freight

These changes could force rail operators to renegotiate existing contracts and increase prices, putting rail at a disadvantage compared to road transport.

Recent proposals to increase Track Access Charges (TACs) in several European countries, including Sweden, Germany, and Portugal, are causing concern among rail freight stakeholders. The proposed increases - 40% in Sweden, 16% in Germany, and 8% in Portugal - could significantly impact the competitiveness of rail freight with other modes of transport, potentially undermining Europe's goals of shifting more freight to rail.

The rail industry, which is already bound by contractual agreements set years in advance, faces immediate challenges due to these unexpected increases. Rail operators and their customers need stability in TACs to plan effectively and encourage a modal shift from road to rail. With many 2025 contracts already in place, these increases are forcing companies to renegotiate terms and conditions, and they cannot absorb the additional costs without passing them on to end users.

In addition, the increases are seen as inconsistent with road charging policies, resulting in a disjointed approach that disadvantages rail freight. High and unpredictable infrastructure costs are at odds with policy efforts to increase rail freight volumes to meet environmental targets.

In response to these challenges, industry leaders are calling for an urgent reassessment of TAC policy. They advocate a strategic approach to track access charges that prioritizes marginal cost principles and takes into account the financial burden on rail freight operations.

Dirk Stahl, President of the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA), expressed concern that the increases could further reduce the role of rail freight in reducing transport emissions unless immediate corrective action is taken. Conor Feighan, ERFA's Secretary General, emphasized the need for short-term support measures within the current legislative framework to mitigate the impact of rising charges.

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