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Clarification of the interpretation of ”nearest suitable railway station”

June 30, 2020

Road transport performed by Samskip Sia in Sweden has been confirmed to be within the framework of a permitted combined transport through a decision of the Administrative court of Falun in Sweden. The central question in the case was how to interpret the term “nearest suitable railway station”

A combined transport is a freight transport, including a road transport as an an initial or final leg of the journey, and that may be carried out within Sweden's borders by a foreign carrier with a Community license but without a Swedish license. Such road transport is, thus, not covered by the restrictions that the cabotage rules entail. In deciding whether the transport in question in the case should be considered as a permitted combined transport, the central question was what is meant by the concept of "nearest suitable railway station". Prior to this, there was no guidance from Swedish court cases on how the concept should be interpreted.

The Court initially states that since the purpose of the rules on combined transport is to shift the transport of goods from road to rail or ship based on, inter alia, environmental considerations, an overly restrictive interpretation of the concept of nearest suitable railway station risks jeopardizing the purpose of the regulations by limiting the practical possibilities of actually being able to carry out combined transports.

The Court further notes that no absolute distance requirement exists in the concept of “nearest suitable railway station”. An assessment of which station is the “nearest suitable railway station” should instead be made in each case where different aspects, such as, for example availability of train locations, cost and time aspects can be weighed against the geographical distance.

The Court also affirms the starting point in cases regarding sanction fees for violations of the provisions on cabotage transport, which is that it is the Swedish Transport Agency that is to show that an infringement has occurred. Therefore, in order to impose a sanction fee, the Road Traffic Police or the Swedish Transport Agency must, in a case such as this, be able to point out another closer railway station which suitably could have been used by the carrier and show why this station should be considered most suitable. According to the Court, it is not enough merely to state that another station was most appropriate, with reference only to geographical considerations and that the goods could in fact be handled at the designated station.

Against this background, the Court considered that it was not shown that the carrier carried out an unauthorized combination transport. Therefore, there were no prerequisites for imposing a sanction fee on Samskip Sia.

The Court’s judgment has been appealed by the Swedish Transport Agency to the Administrative Court of Appeal in Sundsvall.

Samskip was represented by Ninos Aho, Robin Eliasson and Jenny Sandlund at Advokatfirman Vinge in Sweden.

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