photo: DB/DB train

07 / 10 / 2021

Every train running on the railway network is subject to a charge for access to the railway transport route. Is such a calculation simple or complex? And is the calculation method the same in all states? In our comparison, we focused on Central Europe, namely the following 5 countries: Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia. All these countries are located in the European Union, but even so, the system of charging for access to the rail transport route is different in each state. So what principles is it built on in each country? Check out our summary.

**Germany — DB Netz AG**

The fee for access to the runway in Germany consists of 3 components. The first part of the calculation is the direct costs calculated from the train path. The second part of the calculation depends on the differences between the different types of transport and the target market segment. The third variable component is additional fees and discounts. The basic breakdown of the category of trains is for freight and passenger transport, which is further divided into local (regional) and long-distance transport.

The rates for long-distance passenger trains depend on each category of train according to the market segment to which they fall. For example, trains connecting metropolitan cities (defined by a daily turnover from 50,000 passengers), regular trains, night trains, but also locomotive, empty rides, as well as charter and nostalgic extraordinary rides. Rates range from 2.68 Euro/train km to 12.44 Euro/wolf. The special rate applies to trains with the suffix "Express", which is set at 2 Euro per train km. "Express" trains are entitled to special service in case of breakdowns and lockouts on the line, as a rule, they take precedence over other categories of trains.

Regional charging is divided into 16 geographical areas and rates range from 5,030 (in the Hamburg area) to 5,836 (in the Brandenburg area). Different rates are charged for an empty ride, ranging from 2,647 to 3,403.

The freight segment is charged according to categories: Standard train, Very heavy train, Dangerous goods train, Local dangerous goods train, Local freight train and Locomotive run. Rates range from 1.82 Euro/train km (for the last 2 categories) to 4.30 Euro/train km (for the Very heavy train category).

Other fees and discounts are also charged. For example, a 20% graduation discount is granted for trains providing new transport links. The total price consists of the product of timetable charges, the train km-given route and the number of days of operation.

**Austria - OBB Infrastructure AG**

Fees in Austria are calculated by train kilometres and by gross tonne-kilometres (hrtkm). The fee charged by train km consists of direct costs and incidentals, per hrtkm is calculated according to the direct costs. Trains are divided according to the tariff into several categories: commercial passenger traffic, public service long-distance passenger traffic, short-distance traffic high, short-distance traffic low, freight traffic manipulated, freight traffic non-manipulated, service train. The highest direct costs are charged for short-distance transport (0.796 Euro/train km), but on the other hand, they have lower surcharge down compared to commercial and long-distance transport (direct costs 0.715 Euro/train km). The rate for freight and service trains is 0.766 Euro/train km and surcharging is not charged. The hrtkm rate ranges from 0.001586 to 0.002729 EUR/hrtkm. In this case, freight trains will pay at least per hrtkm, but on the other hand, the resulting fee will be higher due to their higher weight

**Czech Republic ****– Správa železnic**

In the Czech Republic, the price for the use of the transport route is constructed as a two-component with a separate calculation for the train's own journey and using passenger access roads. The formula for calculating train running consists of several components. The basic price for 1 km of train travel is set at CZK 21.50/train km. The formula also takes into account the length of the train journey (in km to the nearest 1 decimal number). In addition, the formula uses the coefficient "K" taking into account the category of line. The categorisation of lines is the result of an assessment of their current technical condition, equipment with technical equipment and taking into account the demand for capacity allocation on TEN-T lines and other lines. There are a total of 5 track categories and the coefficient value ranges from 0,71 to 1,15. Another component of the calculation is the so-called product factor P, which is also divided into 5 categories, depending on whether it is passenger transport, non-specific freight transport, freight transport within the collection and delivery system of individual wagons, combined freight transport and freight transport – non-standard trains. Factor P values are between 0,30 and 2,00, with the lowest for freight transport in the wagon system and the highest for the last category of freight transport. The first two categories listed have a coefficient value of 1,00. The calculation formula contains two more specific factors S1 and S2, where S1 represents the line wear coefficient depending on the total train weight, starting at a category up to 49 t with a value of 0,42 and ending in a category above 3000 t with a value of 8,35. The S2 coefficient distinguishes whether the train traction unit is equipped with ETCS level 2 and above. If the train meets this condition, the coefficient value is 1,00, otherwise 0,90.

The last part of the calculation of the railway use charge is the price for the use of passenger access roads on a passenger train. The price is calculated according to the category of stations, divided into 5 categories by equipment (11-15), where the calculation is based on a coefficient in the range of 0.04-0.09 per 1 stop multiplied by the weight of the train (t). For each train, the fee for each train stop shall be calculated in this way.

It is also possible to obtain a price advantage from the railway use fee thanks to a bonus for cars upgraded to reduce noise emissions. This bonus is calculated at a rate of CZK 0.10 per axle and mileage.

**Slovakia – Železnice Slovenskej republiky (ŽSR)**

In Slovakia, 2 things are taken into account when calculating railway use charges. Access to the runway and access to services.

In the first part, 4 factors are taken into account. Fee for ordering and allocating capacity to the relevant line category (1-5), which ranges from 0.0272 to 0.0691 Euro/train km. Furthermore, the fee for managing and organizing transport on the relevant line category (1-5) is in the range of 0.588 - 0.997 Euro/train km. Then the fee for ensuring the operability of the railway infrastructure on the relevant category of the line (1-5) in the range of 0.670 - 1.102 Euro/thousand hrtkm. And the last is the fee for the use of an electric supply device for the supply of traction current worth a coefficient of 0.228 Euro/thousand hrtkm.

The second part of the charge consists of a calculation, which also consists of 4 parts. The first is the fee for access to the passenger station, its buildings and facilities, where buildings are divided into 3 categories (A_{OD}-C_{OD}) and the fee is in the range of 0.460 - 0.510 Euro for stopping the passenger train. If these were other types of passenger trains other than trains sets (soupravových), the rate would be different for the middle category B and instead of 0.480 would be 1,115 Euro for stopping the train. An additional fee shall be charged for the place for the sale of tickets at passenger transport stations, where 2 categories and a rate of 2,00 or 2,35 Euro per month and m2 of space are taken into account. An additional fee is for access to line-up stations and train-line facilities, including access to freight terminals. It is divided into 4 categories (A_{ND} – D_{ND}) of transport buildings for freight trains and ranges from 0 to 49,631 Euro per train access. The last component of the calculation is the fee for the use of stabling tracks, the rate of which is 0.195 Euro for every 24 hours of stay started 1 car.

**Poland – Polskie linie kolejowe s.a. (PLK)**

In Poland, the fees for the use of the railway are divided into several categories. The first is the capacity allocation fee, which is fixed on a flat-rate basis at PLN 100.

Another essential part of railway charging is the calculation of the so-called standard fee. It consists of 3 parts. In the first part, the total distance travelled shall be multiplied by the train at the rate for the relevant train mass in gross tonnes and the rate per train category. Unit rates consist of 2 factors: the first is determined by the mass of the train and the second by mode of transport. Train weight rates range from 0.38 (for a weight of fewer than 60 tons) to 3.3083 (per weight up to 5040 tons). The second factor depends on the category of the train line and ranges from 0.6951 to 1.2191. The average rate calculated by weight and category of the train is around PLN 7.77/train km. The second part of the calculation considers the fee for the use of traction energy, by the product of the kilometres driven on the traction line and the rate of PLN 0.22/km. The third part is the amount calculated according to the train category and is based on the condition that if the train is more than 660 gross tonnes used outside the intermodal transport system, a rate of PLN 1.28/train km shall be charged.

Another charge is the handling fee. Rates range in electric traction of 3.57 PLN/km and at other traction PLN 3.35/km. Furthermore, there is a reservation fee for the allocation of runway capacity equal to 100% of the base fee value, but not less than PLN 1000. The stabling fee is set at PLN 1.48/h. There is a charge of PLN 57.92/h for the creation of the timetable. The last fee that polish railways determine is using information boards. In the case of the PLK information board, they charge PLN 16,23/m2, for other business boards PLN 14,02/m2.

**Final summary**

In our comparison, we dealt with the system of charging for access to the rail transport route in 5 central European countries. Historically, each country has its own different charging system, which persists to this day, which is not optimal in terms of the pursuit of a single railway area within the European Union. At the very least, this is not clear for the target users. In some countries, only the distance travelled by train, calculated in so-called train kilometres, is taken into account, in other countries the distance travelled is combined with the weight of the train in gross tonne-kilometres (hrtkm). On top of all this, each country has a different calculation formula, and to make matters worse, the resulting comparison is complicated by the fact that the fee is set in each country by the domestic currency, which represents the Euro somewhere, but in some countries its own domestic currency.

If we compare the different calculation systems, in Germany they based the formula purely on the rate of distance travelled in the train km. No other country we compare has such a simplified system. The specific amounts differ according to whether it is passenger or freight transport, and in the passenger amount the distance from the regional one is even different. The system is targeted at the target market and is quite well developed. Compared to other countries, charging in Germany is quite high.

Austria, on the other hand, uses a completely different calculation system. The resulting fee builds on a combination of calculations after train km and hrtkm. Freight trains are discounted by the price per train km compared to passenger trains, but due to their weight, the resulting fee is logically higher.

In the Czech Republic, the basis of the calculation is the basic rate, which is precisely determined for each timetable period by the railway declaration. This amount is further multiplied by several coefficients. They take into account the category of route, or the so-called product factor, which distinguishes the different modes of transport. It also contains specific factors where one determines how much a train wears out a railway line by its weight and, in the other, whether it is equipped with ETCS security. In addition, the price for the use of passenger access routes (station services) is added for each train stop.

In Slovakia, the calculation is similarly based on a combination of distance travelled in train km and train weight in hrtkm, only different from other countries. There is a specific rate for ordering and allocating capacity, for managing and organizing transport on the relevant category of the line (both in train km) and separately for ensuring the operability of the railway infrastructure and for the use of electrical supply equipment (both in hrtkm). In addition to all this, there is a fee for the use of station services for each train stop.

The last country to compare is Poland. Here the calculation is also carried out by combining rates per train km and hrtkm. The first part of the calculation is based on the multiple of distance travelled and the rate for the relevant train mass in hrtkm and the rate per train category. In the second part of the calculation, the rate for the use of traction energy multiplied by the kilometres travelled is calculated. Heavy freight trains outside the intermodal transport system are charged separately. Other special fees relate to the allocation of railway capacity, the creation of timetables, the use of information boards at railway stations, etc.

All in all, each charging system in the 5 countries we compare is different. Each method of charging certainly has its advantages and disadvantages, because the railway infrastructure and the services provided there on it are so diverse that it is not easy to put an appropriate method of pricing on it. However, one thing is quite obvious, and that is the fact that it seems unmissable to its users if a different system applies in each country and may even be too complex in some countries. All the countries compared by us are part of the European Union and its aim is to achieve a single railway area and as much simplification as possible for international transport, so we will see if we ever see any simplification and integration in the area of rail charging.

author: Alice Houserová