The EU Commission approves a €133 million Swedish scheme to support rail freight and passenger operators affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

State aid: Commission approves €133 million Swedish scheme to support rail freight and passenger operators affected by the coronavirus outbreak*

The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a €133 million (SEK 1,370 million) Swedish scheme to support the rail freight sector and the rail passenger sector in the context of the coronavirus outbreak.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The scheme approved today will help rail freight and passenger operators in Sweden weather the difficult situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The measure will contribute to maintaining the competitiveness of rail compared to other modes of transport, in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal. 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.

Support under the scheme will take the form of a reduction of the charges due by railway companies to access rail infrastructure in both the rail freight and the rail passenger sectors. The measure will thereby help prevent the loss of market shares of rail transport vis-à-vis competing modes of transport and encourage the shift of freight and passenger traffic from road to rail.

The scheme will relieve rail freight and passenger operators of part of the costs linked to infrastructure charges due for the period from 1 March 2020 to 30 September 2021.

The Commission found that the scheme 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 Commission 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.

Finally, the reduction of infrastructure charges is in line with Regulation (EU) 2020/1429. This Regulation allows and encourages Member States to temporarily authorise the reduction, waiver or deferral of charges for accessing rail infrastructure in the context of the coronavirus outbreak.

As a result, the Commission concluded that the measures comply with EU State aid rules, in particular the 2008 Commission Guidelines on State aid for railway undertakings (“the Railway Guidelines”).

Background

The Railway Guidelines clarify the rules set out in EU treaties for the public funding of railway companies and provide guidance on the compatibility of State aid for railway companies with the EU treaties.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.100464 in the State aid case register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the Competition Weekly e-News.

*This is the original title of the press release. The title above has been amended in order to match the e-Competitions format. Individual authors are welcome to provide original independent commentaries on the case law. Articles are subject to approval by the Board of e-Competitions Bulletin before publication based on the Editorial Policy (click here).

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European Commission, The EU Commission approves a €133 million Swedish scheme to support rail freight and passenger operators affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, 7 December 2021, e-Competitions December 2021, Art. N° 104013

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