On October 7, 2020, the Regulation 2020/1429 which establishes the measures for a sustainable rail market in view of the COVID-19 outbreak was published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
The regulation allows Member States to support the railway companies by reducing, waiving or deferring the payment of track access charges from 1 March 2020 until 31 December 2020 (the reference period).
In order to counteract the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, railway undertakings might need financial support as it is possible that they will be unable to pay the track access charges due to the sharp drop in demand for rail transport services during the coronavirus pandemic.
The regulation is applied to the use of the railway infrastructure for domestic and international rail services.
Thanks to the Regulation 2020/1429, the Member States may authorise infrastructure managers to reduce, waive or defer the payment of charges for the minimum access package, and for access to infrastructure connecting service facilities, where appropriate according to the market segments identified in their network statements, in a transparent, objective and non-discriminatory way, where such payment has or will become due during the reference period.
Also, the Member States may authorise infrastructure managers to reassess the ability of the market segments to bear mark-ups for the purpose of a possible reduction of the amounts due in respect of the established period.
In addition, the IMs may be authorised to not charge the reservation of any applicant railway undertakings, for capacity allocated that was not used during the reference period.
The national authorities shall compensate infrastructure managers for the specific financial loss suffered as the result of the application of the new measures by 31 December of the year following the year in which the loss was incurred. That compensation is without prejudice to the Member States’ obligation under Article 8(4) of Directive 2012/34/EU to ensure that, over a reasonable period, which shall not exceed a period of five years, the profit and loss account of an infrastructure manager shall remain balanced.
The Member States will inform the European Commission on the measures taken no later than three months from the date of entry into force of the Regulation and shall inform the Commission of subsequent measures or changes thereof. The Commission shall make this information publicly available.
If the Commission finds that the reduction in the level of rail traffic as compared to the level in the corresponding period in the previous years is persisting and is likely to persist, and also finds, on the basis of the best available scientific data, that this situation is the result of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Commission would adopt an amendment that will extend the reference period by up to six months, and the reference period may not be extended beyond 14 April 2022.