The rail industry primes itself for the immediate deregulation of passenger transport

The representatives of the Spanish railway industry met to analyse the upcoming opening of the passenger transport market, as well as the main challenges and opportunities unveiled at the conference on the “Impact of the deregulation of passenger transport in the railway industry” held on October 8th,

The event, organised by the Spanish Railway Association (MAFEX) together with IE University, brought together senior officials and representatives of the sector to discuss the changes that will occur from December 2020, when the market is open to competition.

The session was presented by the Chairman IE Centre for Transport Economics & Infrastructure Management, Julio Gómez-Pomar; and the president of Mafex, Víctor Ruiz, where they highlighted “the opportunity of liberalisation for society, citizens, operators and of course for industry. For the latter, deregulation will mean a more demanding market for products and services, more innovative and advanced, and that will make it possible for companies that participate in the process to benefit from the repositioning at the international level of our sector.”

At the opening of the conference, the Secretary of State for Infrastructure, Transport and Housing, Pedro Saura, highlighted the major challenge of the change towards a new business model. Saura recalled that “we are facing a great state reform, essential for the Spanish economy, which will increase productivity, bring society together and advance key issues such as the environment, innovation and competitiveness.” According to Saura, the keys for its implementation to be a success are based on aspects such as the correct design of the liberalisation model, the elimination of any barrier, as well as the permanent evaluation by the Government of the efficiency and equity of its development. Regarding the main repercussions on the sector, he stressed that “an increase in traffic and a greater number of trains can mean an investment of 1,500 million euros for the industry, a boost to the railway 4.0, new opportunities in the maintenance sector of rolling stock and the opening to the international market ”.

In turn, the President of ADIF, Isabel Pardo de Vera, stressed the role that the administrator plays in a “state project, key from an economic point of view” and the commitment that all social, political, public agents also have and private to promote a means of transport that will improve people’s lives.

Pardo underlined that the objective of ADIF is to respond successfully to the challenges that must be faced to make this process a reality and ensure efficient management of the network in view of traffic growth forecasts and the use of railway infrastructures. In this regard, he recalled that in a multi-operator scenario “from within ADIF, we are focused on overcoming all the difficulties that may exist in its development.”

Other aspects in which he emphasised are the administrator’s plans to improve the use of the stations, provide an innovative concept of service and attention to the traveler, implement a fully interoperable system and move forward in terms of energy efficiency and adaptation to the new digital environment.

Round tables: European experience and impact

The experts also had the opportunity to share experiences and viewpoints during two round tables in which national and international speakers voiced their opinions.

During the first one, devoted to the “Impact of liberalisation on railway operators”, CEO & President VY (Norwegian State Railways) Norway, Geir Isaksen; and the General Director of Development and Strategy of Renfe, Manel Villalante i Llauradó. In his speech, Villalante said that liberalisation opens a new paradigm for mobility. The company, which will place the spotlight on users in the coming years, has designed the “Strategic Plan 2019-2023” as a roadmap for liberalisation with digital, cultural transformation and strategic alliances as key points; in addition to its commitment to internationalisation as an integral operator.

In the second round table, entitled “Impact on the rail liberalisation industry in the EU”, the  Second Vice President of MAFEX, María Concepción Ortega Ortíz, featured alongside; Director Spekter (Employers’ Association) Norway, Sverre Høven; and RailForum Rail Association Board member Han Koers. In this block, it was shown how in Europe this process is carried out very differently in each country, the efforts involved in the change in terms of cost and efficiency, improvement of services and business restructuring to offer an attractive service to passengers and increase the train quota as a means of transport.

Business network

Regarding the role of the business network, María Concepción Ortega outlined the opportunity offered by liberalisation to promote the railroad and value the investments that have been made in recent years, as well as the significant know-how and technological advances offered by Spanish companies  Ortega said that “the industry is prepared to respond to the needs of different actors such as Renfe, Adif or the new operators” to help them achieve their aims in terms of energy efficiency, sustainability, innovation or service excellence. Although, she added that it is necessary to design a stable investments programme in infrastructure and with sufficient resources in R&D to continue to spearhead world transport.