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:
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.