The EESC supports the aim of improving mobility for citizens who travel long distances by coach or bus, encouraging the use of sustainable modes of transport, and making it possible to offer services that are more in line with the needs of the population, particularly those on the lowest incomes.
However, the proposal to extend the scope of the common rules for access to the international market for coach and bus services to cover all regular services for hire or reward, including national services, run by a non-resident carrier, is considered problematic in some Member States.
Applying the new rules on access to the market for regular international and national coach and bus transport services over a distance of less than 100 km or 120 km as the crow flies to urban and suburban services could, according to those countries, seriously undermine the fulfilment of the mission and public service obligations of a service of general economic interest (SGEI).
The EESC considers that the proposal for a regulation does not take account of the substantial differences between Member States in how they organise their coach and bus transport services and pricing, particularly of urban and suburban services.
The proposed provision that, for international and national transport services (including urban and suburban services) over distances of less than 100 kilometres as the crow flies, access to the market may only be refused if the service offered would compromise the economic equilibrium of a public service contract could in some cases be difficult to reconcile with the need for a service of general interest that is affordable and of appropriate quality for all.
The EESC stresses that, if pursuant to such an application of the subsidiarity principle, the Member States are allowed the wide discretion afforded to them by the Treaty to organise their SGIs in line with the needs of the population, this of course will mean that also Member States with deregulated bus and coach markets can continue, and that the Commissions aim of a single market for such services will not be reached.
Finally, the EESC stresses that establishing new coach and bus routes may entail a risk of adversely affecting public services using more sustainable modes of transport.