EU Commissioner Breton Wants “More Choice For Consumers And Fewer Obstacles For Smaller Competitors”. Therefore, His New Digital Markets Act (DMA) Must Rein In The Gatekeepers Of Passenger Rail
Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Internal Market, (c) POOL

Today, the EU Commissioner for Internal Market Mr Thierry Breton has published the first list of “digital gatekeepers” in the EU, online companies that are a bottleneck between businesses and consumers.
When you look at Mr Breton’s criteria, it is clear that EU state-owned rail incumbents’ in-house distribution channels are all digital gatekeepers.
After all, their hugely dominant in-house digital rail ticket platforms deny smaller rail operators exposure and limit the choice for consumers.

We only have to look at Germany – the EU’s largest Member State – where the official Monopolies Commission has determined that state-owned rail incumbent DB’s in-house digital platforms have well over 90% market share1.

Consequently, many new long distance operator competitors have failed – because the digital gatekeeper DB refused to make their tickets bookable. For example, the CEO of start-up operator Locomore explicitly said that the lack of Sales on DB’s dominant ticket vendors was the biggest single Barrier To Entry. Just a few weeks after his comments, Locomore ceased operations.

Meanwhile, third party rail ticket vendors suffer as well. With few – if any – competing rail operators to compare on their platforms, consumers will never experience the benefits of independent distribution that they know from the airline sector.

“Both Commissioner Breton’s DMA and EU Transport Commissioner Vălean’s upcoming Multimodal Digital Mobility Services Proposal (MDMS) must impose upfront clear obligations on the EU state rail incumbent digital gatekeepers – in order to foster innovation, competitiveness and resilience of the Single European Railway Area”.

ALLRAIL Secretary General Nick Brooks

Therefore, ALLRAIL calls on Commissioner Breton to add the rail incumbents’ in-house sales platforms to the list of designated “digital gatekeepers”. Otherwise Ticketing will remain the Silent Killer of both EU passenger rail liberalisation and modal shift to rail.

1. Source: 8th Sector Report on Railways by German Monopolies Commission 2021, page 119