The European Commission has approved, on March 24, under EU State aid rules, a EUR 270 million Italian measure supporting both the rail freight operators and the rail commercial passenger companies in the context of the coronavirus outbreak.
The measure aims at preserving the competitiveness of rail passenger operations and maintaining a stable, reliable and sufficient service offer. The financial scheme enables Italy to relieve rail freight operators and rail commercial passenger operators of part of the costs related to track access charges during the period from 10 March to 31 December 2020.
This support helps rail operators in Italy to cope with the difficult situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak, preventing the loss of market shares to road operators and preserving the benefits of the shift of traffic from road to rail achieved prior to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Also, in the context of the coronavirus outbreak, it is important to maintain the competitiveness of rail freight and commercial passenger operators with respect to other modes of transport, in line with the EU Green Deal objectives. The approved measure enables the Italian authorities to further support this sector in the current challenging situation. We continue working with all Member States to ensure that national support measures can be put in place as quickly and effectively as possible, in line with EU rules,” Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said.
The Commission found that the Italian measure is beneficial for the environment and for mobility as it supports rail transport, which is less polluting than road transport, while also decreasing road congestion. The EC also found that the measure is proportionate and necessary to achieve the objective pursued, namely to support the modal shift from road to rail whilst not leading to undue competition distortions.
The reduction of infrastructure access charges is in line with Regulation (EU) 2020/1429 which allows and encourages Member States to temporarily authorise the reduction, waiver or deferral of charges for accessing rail infrastructure below direct costs.
On March 10, the EC another Italian state aid of EUR 511 million for the support of the long-distance rail passenger operators affected by coronavirus.