The European Commission released on 21st February a modified draft of its project of new Regulation on public service requirements and public service contracts in passenger transport. In this new draft, the Commission accepts most of the amendments adopted by the European Parliament in its first reading of the text last November, concerning for example:
– the maximum length of contracts between authorities and operators (8 years for bus services and 15 for rail),
– some cases in which authorities can award contracts without competition (contracts of less than Â€ 1m or Â€ 3m for whole networks, cases of emergency),
– the possibility to modify a contract before its term provided that the value of the changes doesn’t exceed 20% of the contract’s annual value,
– the length of the transition period (8 years).
However, this new version departs from the position of the Parliament on some key issues, such as the possibility for competent authorities to require selected operators to subcontract part of their services or to refuse to award a contract to an operator with more than 25% of the relevant market.
Besides, the exceptions from competition are strictly limited (for example the large size of the network for metros or security standards for railways) and the Commission has removed the possibility for competent authorities to operate themselves or to award transport services with exclusive rights to their own companies for an unlimited period of time.
In all these cases, authorities have to justify their decision at least one year in advance and any company can challenge this decision by providing an alternative offer.
This new draft will be submitted to the Council of Ministers of Transport of 25-26 March in Brussels, under Spanish Presidency.