Last month DB Networks presented the draft framework contracts to the regulator proposing that the long standing DB-operated car carrying service should be replaced by the new service operated by RDC. The regulator has instructed DB Networks to present new proposals by March 4.

The agency says it rejected the proposed framework agreement because it allocates a greater proportion of the overall capacity on the Niebüll – Westerland (Sylt) line than is permitted under German railway law. The decision suggests that 50% of the line's capacity - two paths per hour - will have to be allocated annually four months before every timetable change, making long-term planning for any operator almost impossible.

This position is being challenged by RDC, which argues the legislation enables up to 75% of capacity to be pre-assigned on a long-term basis, as envisaged in the draft contract prepared by DB Networks and rejected by the regulator.

RDC Germany will challenge the regulatory decision in court although managing director Mr Carsten Carstensen said in a statement "from our perspective, the courtroom is the worst place to agree a reasonable timetable."

The proposed agreement allowed for three trains per hour: up to two regional trains, one long-distance DB-operated Intercity service (four per day) and up to two car shuttles per hour in hours where there were less regional and no intercity services.

Capacity is limited because 22.2km of the 39.3 km Niebüll – Westerland line is single track with mechanical signalling, restricting operations to four trains per direction per hour.

DB currently operates the "Sylt Shuttle" car-carrying trains and the company and its predecessors have run the service since it started in 1932. RDC Germany had applied for paths for its proposed car-carrying trains on the basis that it would offer more frequent services than DB does currently and that the needs of all other operators would be accommodated in what RDC called a "consensus solution" timetable, which it published on its website on February 27.