Poland: Biased Rail Regulator Approves Application for PKP Intercity but Refuses Identical Application for Newcomer

▶ On 3 March 2024, after 531 (!) days of proceedings, the Polish rail regulator UTK only approved a minor portion of independent operator RegioJet’s application to operate commercial passenger services on the Kraków–Gdynia route, and confined mostly to off-peak hours.

▶ Meanwhile, the state-owned long-distance operator PKP Intercity submitted an identical application to operate these same commercial routes. This was fully approved, in a short amount of time.

▶ UTK’s decision to approve state incumbent’s application while imposing severe limitations on that of the independent operator showcases a troubling instance of double standards and protectionism.

UTK alleged concerns over the potential impact on subsidised connections and the rail network’s overall capacity as reasons for its decision. Such concerns were conspicuously absent in the evaluation of PKP Intercity’s identical application, suggesting different treatment depending on the operator. UTK seemingly wears tinted glasses, seeing a new entrant’s yellow trains as a menace to subsidised trains, while the incumbents’ blue ones get a free pass, despite offering identical services.

This discriminatory treatment not only exposes UTK’s double standards yet again but also highlights a protectionist stance that could significantly hinder the development of a competitive and efficient rail market in Poland. The restrictions imposed on the independent operator limit operational flexibility, increase operating costs, and ultimately restrict the potential for lower ticket prices. 

ALLRAIL’s spokeswoman for Poland Katarzyna Dekeyser says: “once again, UTK’s protectionism towards PKP Intercity illustrates the Regulator’s double standards that prevent new operators from entering the market.

We reiterate our call for an urgent investigation into the impartiality of UTK’s actions under Directive 2012/34/EU, emphasising the need for unbiased regulatory practices to ensure equitable market access, foster competition and make rail transport more affordable in Poland”.