State Aid: Austria Can Support Passenger and Freight Rail Says EC

The European Commission has approved Austrian measures under state aid rules that aim to support passenger and rail freight affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Two of the measures relate to rail freight, one to passenger rail.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy, said:

“The measures approved today will enable the Austrian authorities to support not only rail freight transport operators, but also commercial passenger operators in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. This will contribute to maintaining their competitiveness compared to other modes of transport, in line with the EU Green Deal objective. 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.”

The measures are as follows:

  • freight: amendments to the 2020 budget of an existing support scheme that will cover grants for a total estimated 150.7 million euros in 2020
  • freight: a measure worth around 115.7 million euros to enable Austria to relieve rail freight operators of costs associated with track access charges from 1 March–31 December 2020
  • passenger: approx. 9 million euros to waive the payment of track access charges payable by commercial passenger rail operators, especially private rail undertakings that operate on a commercial basis; this measure also goes towards maintaining normal service levels

The European Commission said the measures were good for the environment and for mobility. It also found the measures to be proportionate and necessary to support the goal of modal shift without creating undue competition distortions.

The recently adopted Regulation (EU) 2020/1429 already approved the waiving of track access charges in this context and is something other countries such as France have taken advantage of. This regulation gives Member States the options of whether to waive the charges entirely or whether to reduce or defer them.

Taking all of this into account, the Commission found that the Austrian measures are in line with EU state aid rules, and in particular with the 2008 Commission Guidelines on State Aid for Railway Undertakings.

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