Drafted in July 2015, the programme ‘State aid in financing the costs of management of rail infrastructure, including its maintenance and renovation for the years 2014-2023’ is – in the opinion of Pro Kolej Foundation – an important and needed document. What should be greatly appreciated is a recommendation it puts forward to significantly increase the outlays to maintain rail infrastructure and allocate funds for the benefit of PKP PLK S.A. to lower rates of access to rail infrastructure.

These are actions that have been put forward for a long time by rail environment, also by the Foundation, the more so that all previous attempts to stabilise the financial framework of operation of the national manager of rail infrastructure and narrowing of a gap in maintenance funds remained at the stage of analysis and projects, without being finalised. One of the results of negligence in this respect was also Case C-512/10 before the Court of Justice in Luxembourg, lost by Poland on 30 May 2013. The ‘Programme’ draft is thus the first signal of a change in the current policy concerning access to rail infrastructure included, among others, in declarations submitted by Poland to the European Commission.

In the assessment of Pro Kolej Foundation, the amount of PLN 40 billion put forward in the ‘Programme’ draft reflects a minimum amount needed to maintain and use the effects of investment in rail infrastructure and at the same time implementation of Polish and Community law that regulates the maximum amount of rates of access to the infrastructure.

While expressing a positive opinion on document draft, we would like to emphasise that in order to meet the envisaged goals it is vital to precisely define the obligation of infrastructure manager, envisage access rates and minimum parameters which must be guaranteed in connection with obtaining public funds. Given the above, the following issues need to be highlighted:

  • The grounds for conclusion of a long-term contract between the Ministry competent for transport and PKP PLK S.A. should be development by the manager of a business plan that includes investment and finance programmes, referred to in Article 8.3 of Directive 2012/34.
  • The Agreement should specify incentives for the infrastructure manager to decrease operational costs and the level of fees for access to the infrastructure, referred to in Article 30.1 of Directive 2012/34 (pursuant to § 3 of the draft regulation of the Council of Ministers enclosed to the ‘Programme’, a long-term contract should implement Article 30 of the Directive, and it should reflect the Community regulations, also in the area of incentives for the infrastructure manager).
  • It is important to introduce a mechanism of verification of the level of full costs of PKP PLK S.A. – as only a part of the costs of access to the infrastructure is supervised by the Office of Rail Transport (to ensure proper effectiveness, all the costs of the manager should be supervised).
  • A systematic increase in the effectiveness of PKP PLK S.A. should be programmed, as well as a mechanism in accordance with which the decrease in the costs obtained is transferred onto rail entrepreneurs in the form of lower fees for access to the infrastructure.
  • It should be ensured that the basic costs of PKP PLK do not include depreciation which is financed from public grants.
  • The division of liability for preserving the envisaged level of costs and effectiveness of PKP PLK S.A. should be clearly specified, as well as mechanisms of action and solutions applied when the envisaged costs exceed the assumptions made.
  • Mechanisms of rewarding and punishing the manager and persons managing an entity should be included in an agreement, and they should depend on the extent to which the business plan was executed (prepared in accordance with Article 8.3 of Directive 2012/34) and actual quality of the infrastructure to which access is given.

Moreover, with programme implementation a mechanism of a periodic review of the classification of maintenance categories of individual rail sections and rail lines should be guaranteed – in line with expectations of transportation organisers and passenger and goods carriers. By adapting the definition of minimum infrastructure parameters to market reality, velocity for category C sections should be increased from 30 km/h to 50 km/h, and for category D sections the minimum standard should be kept – without planning their permanent closing.