VAP Association against distortion of competition regarding rail freight

VAP Association against distortion of competition regarding rail freight

The Association of Freight Carriers (VAP), which represents some 300 companies from Switzerland and neighbouring countries that rely on the railways in addition to other modes of transport, is opposed to the Federal Council's draft "Further Development of the Framework Conditions for Swiss Freight Transport".

In its first variant, the Federal Council wants to digitise rail freight transport with Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC). According to VAP, this would position rail as part of multimodal logistics. At the same time, it envisages spatial planning measures, investment aid and transhipment and loading incentives to cushion the additional costs of the system break between rail and other modes of transport. Until automation is implemented, the Federal Council wants to compensate for the uncovered costs of system traffic. On the one hand, the VAP welcomes the main thrust of this option, but on the other hand it has reservations and points out the need for fundamental adjustments.

According to the VAP, by transferring responsibility for system traffic to SBB Cargo, the Federal Council is monopolising around 70% of the freight transport volume. At the same time, SBB Cargo is also the main provider of block train and combined transport services. This combination of interests can lead to discrimination against system and block train customers on the one hand, but also to distortions of competition vis-à-vis other providers of block train and combined transport services on the other - irrespective of the compensation paid for system traffic.

Therefore, during the limited period of public compensation, but also afterwards, the system operator should be consistently monitored in terms of performance, quality, productivity and costs. The VAP stresses that care must be taken to ensure that the financial support is quickly reduced and that SBB Cargo's business model is modernised. This will prevent disadvantages and ensure smooth, nationwide system traffic in the long term. The latter in particular should be guaranteed in the long term by carefully monitoring the development of volumes and the customer structure.

Despite all these problems, the VAP has agreed to temporary financial support for SBB Cargo's network traffic until the new concept is implemented. This financial support is based on performance-related, competition-neutral and non-discriminatory incentives - and on the independence of the first/last mile in a legally independent SBB company. This is the only way to guarantee Switzerland's security of supply and the future viability of the railways.

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