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Allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and charging for the use of infrastructure

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Allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and charging for the use of infrastructure

The European Union (EU) encourages the establishment of fair and efficient charging systems for the use of infrastructure. Incentives have therefore been introduced to encourage both the optimal use of existing infrastructure and the necessary investment in new infrastructure. Charging systems must also allow for fair competition between different transport modes.


Directive 2001/14/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2001 on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges for the use of railway infrastructure and safety certification [See amending acts].


This directive applies to railway infrastructure used for domestic or international rail services.

The following are excluded from its scope:

  • stand-alone local and regional passenger networks and networks reserved exclusively for urban and suburban passenger services;
  • privately owned networks reserved solely for use by the owner for its own freight operations;
  • shuttle services for road vehicles through the Channel Tunnel;
  • railway transport operations carried out in transit through the Community.

Infrastructure managers must publish a network statement containing the following information in particular:

  • the nature of the infrastructure which is available to railway undertakings and the conditions for accessing it;
  • the charging principles, including likely changes over the next five years;
  • the principles and criteria for capacity allocation (characteristics, restrictions, procedures and deadlines).

Infrastructure charges

Charges are set and collected by an independent charging body, generally the infrastructure manager provided it is not dependent on the railway undertakings.

The directive defines the minimum access package and the mandatory access to services to which railway undertakings are entitled. The undertakings in turn are under an obligation to provide certain mandatory services, to which additional and ancillary services may be added. These are listed in an annex.

The directive lays down charging principles: charges must be paid to the infrastructure managers and used to fund their business. In principle, the charge for the use of railway infrastructure is equal to the cost directly incurred as a result of operating trains. The infrastructure charge may include a sum reflecting the scarcity of capacity. The infrastructure charge may be adjusted to take account of the cost of the environmental impact of operating the trains.

By way of exception to these charging principles, the directive allows infrastructure managers to levy mark-ups, if the market can bear this, on the basis of efficient, transparent and non-discriminatory principles, while guaranteeing optimum competitiveness, especially of international rail freight. Subject to certain conditions, railway undertakings may be granted discounts on charges.

The directive also contains provisions on:

  • compensation schemes for unpaid environmental, accident and infrastructure costs;
  • a performance scheme;
  • capacity reservation charges (for capacity booked but not used).

Allocation of infrastructure capacity

The right to use railway infrastructure is granted by the infrastructure manager concerned. The infrastructure manager also allocates the available capacity which, once allocated, may not be transferred to any other undertaking by the recipient.

The rights and obligations of the infrastructure manager and of the authorised applicants are laid down in a contract. When an applicant intends to use some infrastructure capacity to operate international passenger services, the regulatory bodies ensure that all of the authorities concerned are informed.

Capacity is allocated by an independent body, which may be the infrastructure manager provided it is totally independent of the railway undertakings.

To ensure close collaboration, the directive provides, inter alia, for the establishment of an organisation to coordinate, at international level, the allocation of capacity on different networks. This could include the establishment of international train paths.

A railway undertaking and infrastructure manager may conclude a framework agreement which may not preclude use of the infrastructure by other railway undertakings and may be amended. The agreement will not specify a train path in detail but should meet the commercial needs of the authorised applicant. In principle, the framework agreement covers a period of five years, renewable for a period equal to this original duration. However, for services using specialised infrastructure, the framework agreement may be for a period of 15 years, which may be extended only in exceptional cases.

The directive lays down a schedule for the capacity allocation process and describes how railway undertakings should apply to use infrastructure.

Infrastructure managers must make every effort to meet all requests for capacity and to ensure the best possible matching of all requirements. Save in exceptional cases (specific framework agreements, scarcity of capacity or specialised infrastructure), no priority is given to any service or undertaking within the scheduling and coordination process.

Infrastructure managers unable to meet all the requests for capacity must declare the section in question to be congested. They must then carry out a capacity analysis to determine the restrictions on capacity and propose alternatives.

Within six months of the completion of a capacity analysis, the infrastructure manager must produce a capacity enhancement plan.

Infrastructure managers lay down the conditions concerning use of the train paths. In the case of congested infrastructure, the infrastructure manager may require the surrender of any train path which, over a period of at least one month, has been used less than a threshold quota to be laid down in the network statement.

The directive allows the option of an arbitration procedure in the event of any dispute over the allocation of infrastructure capacity.

Regulatory bodies

Member States must establish a regulatory body which is independent of infrastructure managers, railway undertakings or any other authority involved in the award of a public service contract. Any undertaking which considers that it has been unfairly treated or discriminated against may appeal to this body. The regulatory body is required to remedy the situation on the basis of the information it can obtain from all the parties concerned.

Derogations to this directive are provided for Ireland, Northern Ireland, Greece and Luxembourg.



Entry into force - Date of expiry

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2001/14/EC



OJ L 75 of 15.3.2001

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 2002/844/EC



OJ L 289 of 26.10.2002

Directive 2004/49/EC



OJ L 164 of 30.4.2004

Directive 2007/58/EC



OJ L 315 of 3.12.2007

Subsequent amendments and corrections to Directive 2001/14/EEC have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purposes only.


Commission Communication of 17 September 2010 concerning the development of a Single European Railway Area [COM (2010) 474 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 8 July 2008 “Rail noise abatement measures addressing the existing fleet” [COM(2008) 432 final – Not published in the Official Journal]. As part of tackling noise pollution, the Commission proposes to launch a programme of noise reduction for freight trains.

Last updated: 18.01.2011