THE European Commission (EC) has invited operators, infrastructure managers and competent authorities to propose new or enhanced cross-border passenger services that would test and implement measures to remove obstacles to the introduction of international services.

The request forms part of the two-year action plan to improve cross-border services unveiled by the EC in December 2021. The plan includes work on ticketing and reducing track access charges.

The EC says that it will support the pilots by facilitating contacts between the relevant stakeholders and by providing assistance. The cross-border services must offer long-distance connections and are expected to be operated on a commercial basis.

Proposed pilot services must start operation no later than December 2029 and must be operated for a minimum of one timetable year, “unless decisive technical, operational, legal or economic grounds would prevent this,” the EC says.

The cross-border services would lose their pilot status after a period of four years, unless critical obstacles persist, requiring intervention by the EC. The EC will not provide financial support for pilot services, other than through existing instruments to which applicants may decide to apply.

In their submissions, applicants will be expected to describe the cross-border obstacles that their pilot will address, and the role they expect the EC to play in establishing the service.

Applicants will also be required to describe the level of interoperability and TSI compliance to be achieved by the pilot service and the challenges to overcome.

In its evaluation of the proposals, the EC says that it will give more weighting to international services operated on an open-access basis than to PSO services awarded by competitive tender or direct award.

Additional weighting will also be given to pilots where tickets will be made available in a non-discriminatory manner through third parties, such as by means of sales agreements.

Proposals must be submitted by October 31. The EC says that it will make public the results of its evaluation of the proposed cross-border rail services by January 13 2023.