The European Commission has approved a EUR 150 million Italian scheme to support both the rail freight sector and the rail commercial passenger sector in the context of the coronavirus outbreak.
The measure enables the reduction of the charges paid by rail freight and commercial passenger operators to access rail infrastructure during the period from 1 January to 30 April 2021.
The European Commission assessed the measure under EU state aid rules and found that in addition to supporting an environmental – friendly form of mobility such as rail transport, the Italian scheme is proportionate and necessary to achieve the objective pursued, to facilitate the modal shift from road to rail whilst not leading to undue competition distortions.
The measure follows the Commission’s approval, in March 2021, of a EUR 270 million scheme aimed at reducing track access charges during the period from 10 March to 31 December 2020. The aim of the measure is to help rail operators coping with the difficult situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, by preserving their competitiveness as well as the benefits of the shift of traffic from road to rail achieved prior to the coronavirus outbreak. The reduction of infrastructure access charges is in line with Regulation (EU) 2020/1429. In October 2020, the Regulation was published in the Official Journal of the European Union and is applied to the use of the railway infrastructure for domestic and international rail services. The Regulation allows and encourages Member States to temporarily authorise the reduction, waiver or deferral of charges for accessing rail infrastructure below direct costs.
In addition, the European Commission has approved, also in March 2021, an Italian state aid of EUR 511 million to compensate long-distance rail passenger operators which have faced the impact of the pandemic between 8 March and 30 June 2020.