Boosting competition in the EU’s coach sector

“We have voted to make the first steps towards integrating the coach market whilst at the same time ensuring that well-functioning national models are protected,” said ECR Latvian MEP Robert Zile after his report on liberalising the EU bus sector was adopted today in the Transport Committee.

MEPs backed proposals to allow operators from another member state to seek authorisation to provide services in national markets, but also adopted safeguards to ensure that public services are not undermined.

To provide greater clarity for operators who want to start new services, the draft rules would harmonise the administrative procedures for applying for authorisation to provide services for national inter-urban and international coach services, setting clear deadlines for decisions and replies. An independent regulatory authority would need to be designated in each EU country to handle authorisations, and rules are defined on carriers access to terminals, to ensure transparency of decisions and non-discrimination by terminal operators.

To ensure that services run under public service obligations are not undermined, transport MEPs introduced clauses that authorisations for new services within and between EU countries can be denied if that service undermines the service provided under public service contracts, while urban and suburban areas are excluded from the scope of the rules. MEPs also voted to give authorities the right to suspend or withdraw authorisations for international coach service if it has compromised the economic equilibrium of a public service contract.

Speaking after the vote, Zile said:

“Operators of coach services should be able to freely offer national services without being subject to discrimination or arbitrary rules. However, we are proposing to open the markets wisely so that the extent of liberalisation is compatible with legitimate national priorities, and that it benefits the carriers, the taxpayers and most importantly the passengers,” he added.

“A lack of competition is always bad for consumers and the economy in any market, and the bus and coach sector is no different. Opening services and routes to competition would reduce prices for consumers, boost mobility and have a positive impact across the economy. It was however important to exempt routes in urban areas that form part of much wider travel networks and form an important aspect of local communities.”

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