On June 26, 2023, the European Commission issued a Notice on “Interpretative guidelines concerning Regulation (EC) N° 1370/2007 on public passenger transport services by road and rail”. To EPF, which supported this document from the beginning, this is good news for passengers, as it is extending the scope of public transport contracting to other activities than purely local services. This was not the point of view of operators’ and authorities’ organisations which asked EPF to join their negative lobbying against many provisions of the notice, whose final wording shows that EPF was right not to follow critics and negative statements.
First, these guidelines confirm that the scope of public service obligation (PSO) contracts may be extended to other modes of transport, including maritime and waterborne passenger transport. This extension may also apply to international rail services, including mainline and night trains, and to regional cross border services. PSO contracts can also include multimodal services (rail, road, maritime) and transport on demand. The Commission’s notice insists on the necessity for PSO contracts between authorities and operators to include social and quality criteria. Passenger public transport projects should also include expected effects of new developments on social cohesion, connectivity and sustainability, with the objective of this broad scope according to the document being the necessary modal shift to public transport modes.
In addition, the guidelines confirm that PSO contracts can be replaced or complemented by more flexible business models such as “general rules” applying to many operating companies on authorities’ territories or a “mix of PSO and open access services” including cross border systems, the ultimate objective being the reinforcement of the network effect and finally satisfying population needs and expectations. To EPF, the perspectives opened by the Commission’s notice are key for future PT developments and are consistent to “Green Deal” objectives, especially for boosting sustainable mobility in cross border regions.