The European Commission has approved state aid schemes with a total funding of EUR 2.56 billion to support rail freight and passenger operators in Germany, Denmark and the Czech Republic, that were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
EUR 2.5 billion support was approved for rail freight and passenger operators in Germany to face the “difficult situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The measures will contribute to maintaining the competitiveness of rail compared to other modes of transport, in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal,” Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said.
The two schemes will ensure increased public support to further encourage the shift of freight and passenger traffic from road to rail.
Support under state aid schemes will take the form of a reduction of the charges paid by railway companies to access rail infrastructure in both the rail freight and the long-distance rail passenger sectors. The measures will thereby help prevent the loss of market shares of rail transport vis-à-vis competing modes of transport.
The first measure, which has an estimated budget of EUR 2.1 billion, will relieve long-distance rail passenger operators of approximately 98% of the infrastructure charges paid during the period from 1 March 2020 to 31 May 2022. Germany’s second measure amends an existing aid scheme of 2018 supporting rail freight operators in Germany. With an estimated budget of EUR 410 million, the amendment increases the support approximately 98% of the infrastructure charges paid by rail freight operators during the period from 1 March 2020 to 31 May 2021. The measure follows a similar budget increase from EUR 350 million to EUR 567 million for the period from 1 June to 31 December 2021, approved by the Commission last May. The Germany’s notified modifications to the scheme also includes an increase in the maximum compensation that rail freight operators can receive which, depending on the distance covered, could go up to an estimated 98% of their track access charges, compared to 45% under the then existing scheme.
For Denmark, the Commission has approved EUR 26 million scheme to support providers of public passenger transport by rail. Under the scheme, the support will take the form of a waiver of the charges paid by railway companies to access rail infrastructure during the period from September to December 2020. The aim of the measure is to help rail passenger operators cope with the difficult situation due to the coronavirus outbreak and to promote the shift of passenger transport from road to rail, the greener mode of transport.
The EC has approved a EUR 31 million state aid for the Czech Republic to compensate rail passenger transport operators for damages suffered due to coronavirus outbreak. Czechia implemented measures to limit the spread of the virus. Under the scheme, rail passenger transport operators will be entitled to compensation in the form of direct grants, for up to 100% of the damages incurred between 12 March and 30 June 2020.