The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) has imposed fines on Dutch railway infrastructure manager ProRail for two violations of the Dutch Railway Act. Firstly, ProRail was fined 776,000 Euros for the way it treated Dutch railway company Connexxion during the capacity allocation process for rail companies. During that process, ProRail did not abide by the rules laid down in the Railway Act, which are there to safeguard the distribution of capacity in a non-discriminatory manner. Secondly, the NMa fined ProRail 100,000 Euros for taking longer than the time limit to perform a capacity analysis.
This case concerns the capacity on the Valley Line, which runs from Amersfoort to Ede-Wageningen, including the yards at Amersfoort. Connexxion had won the contract for the Valley Line, as a new entrant in the rail transport market in 2007. The NMa has established that ProRail had not treated Connexxion equally, and had wrongly given priority to Dutch incumbent railway company NS Reizigers (NSR) request.
Connexxion was forced to adjust its request to NSR’s timetable because of ProRail’s conduct. NSR’s request was based on a draft version of the 2007 timetable that had been drawn up within the so-called Rail Together project, in which Connexxion was not involved. ProRail is legally obliged to grant capacity requests of railway companies as far as it possible. ProRail is thus required to process those requests equally and to weigh them against each other in a fair way. By giving priority to NSR’s interest, ProRail has, according to the NMa, acted contrary to the legal obligation of non-discrimination.
The NMa highly values strict compliance with these time limits so that ProRail initiates in good time the process to come up with structural solutions for increasing capacity in places where shortages have been established. Such analyses, which should provide possible solutions to the problem, need to be completed within six months after the infrastructure has been declared ‘overloaded’. Pro-Rail was two months late in providing the analysis.