Commission launches appeals worth € 12 million for EU news media and public sphere
The European Commission has cleared under EU state aid rules two German support schemes for the rail freight sector and the long-distance rail passenger sector in the context of the coronavirus outbreak .
Competition Policy Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said: “The measures approved today will help freight and passenger rail operators in Germany to overcome the difficult situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The measures will help maintain the competitiveness of rail compared to other modes of transport, in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal. We continue to work with all Member States to ensure that national support measures can be put in place as quickly and efficiently as possible, in line with EU rules. “
Both regimes will ensure increased public support to further encourage the shift of freight and passenger traffic from road to rail.
Support under these schemes will take the form of a reduction in the charges paid by railway undertakings for access to rail infrastructure in the rail freight and long-distance rail passenger sectors. The measures will thus help to avoid the loss of rail transport market share compared to competing modes of transport.
The first measure, with an estimated budget of 2.1 billion euros, will relieve long-distance passenger rail operators of around 98% of the infrastructure charges paid during the period from March 1, 2020 to May 31, 2022 .
The second measure modifies a existing aid scheme of 2018 supporting rail freight operators in Germany. With an estimated budget of € 410 million, the amendment increases support by around 98% of infrastructure charges paid by rail freight operators during the period March 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021. The measure follows a similar budget increase for the period from June 1 to December 31, 2021, approved by the Commission last May.
The Commission has found that the measures are beneficial for the environment and for mobility as they support rail transport, which is less polluting than road transport, while reducing road congestion. The Commission also considered that the measures are proportionate and necessary to achieve the objective pursued, namely to support the modal shift from road to rail without causing undue distortions of competition.
Finally, the reduction in infrastructure charges is in line with the Regulation (EU) 2020/1429. This Regulation allows and encourages Member States to temporarily allow the reduction, elimination or postponement of charges for access to rail infrastructure below direct costs.
As a result, the Commission concluded that the measures were in line with EU state aid rules, in particular the 2008 Commission guidelines on state aid for railway undertakings (“The railway guidelines”).
The railway guidelines clarify the rules set out in the EU treaties for the public funding of railway undertakings and provide guidance on the compatibility of state aid to railway undertakings with the EU treaties.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under case number SA.63635 in the State Aid Register on the website of the Competition Commission once any confidentiality concerns have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the Internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the Weekly electronic news from the competition.