Dutch Government Wants To Force Track Access Fees – Based On An Overpriced Bid By Dutch Railways – Onto All Other Operators
Photo ANP
NETHERLANDS: Railway operators must pay a total of approximately €170 million annually for the use of the Amsterdam-Belgium/Breda high-speed line.
This amount was agreed between the Dutch government and Dutch Railways (‘NS’), and it stems directly from the Fyra concession fee offered by NS in overpriced bidding back in 2001.
In 2024, other operators must pay based upon what NS bid back then, whereas NS is fully compensated for it by the taxpayer – thanks to its directly awarded PSO concession for the main rail network
For the use of the Amsterdam-Belgium/Breda high-speed railway line, operators must pay an additional charge – the “HSL” charge – in the form of track access charges to “cover the expense of building the high-speed line”. All railway operators must pay in proportion to their use of the high-speed line, meaning that commercially driven operators pay the same fee as the state-owned incumbent operator NS.
Back in the days of the Fyra debacle, the Dutch government and NS agreed in 2011 that the HSL charge would be about two-thirds of the Fyra concession fee offered by NS in 2001, expressed at 2010 price levels.  

The charge is compounded with increasing infrastructure costs per calendar year, starting with an infrastructure cost of €62.2 million in 2015 and ending with an infrastructure cost of €123.7 million in 2024 and subsequent years, expressed at 2010 price levels

The HSL charge is indexed on January 1st of each succeeding calendar year and, expressed in 2024 price level, now amounts to as much as ca. € 170 million. 

There are three major concerns with this:

First, this incredibly expensive HSL charge does not comply with Directive 2012/34/EU, which contains frameworks for charges for the use of railway track infrastructure. The HSL charge is so high that the operation of train services over the high-speed line will be structurally loss-making.

At the same time for the international and domestic train services covered by the directly awarded Public Service Obligation (PSO) concession for the main rail network, this is ‘solved’ for NS trains with compensation from the taxpayer, but all other railway operators do not receive this. 

Finally, it cannot be the case that railway operators are held to agreements that the Dutch government and the market-dominant incumbent NS made together during and after the failure of the Fyra, which raises large financial barriers for (potential) entrants to the high-speed line. 
ALLRAIL President Dr Erich Forster says: “The Dutch government is called upon to abandon the HSL charge so that it ensures equal and non-discriminatory access to the high-speed line – in accordance with the EU Directive.”