State aid: Commission approves €150 million Italian measure to support rail freight and commercial passenger operators affected by coronavirus outbreak

The European Commission has approved a €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 measure follows the Commission’s approval, in March 2021, of a scheme aimed at reducing track access charges during the period from 10 March to 31 December 2020 (SA.59376). The aim of the measure is to help rail operators coping with the difficult situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak, 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 Commission assessed the measure under EU state aid rules, in particular Article 93 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the 2008 Commission Guidelines on State aid for railway undertakings, in conjunction with Regulation (EU) 2020/1429.  The Commission found that, in addition to supporting an environmental-friendly form of mobility such as rail transport, the measure is proportionate and necessary to achieve the objective pursued, namely to facilitate the modal shift from road to rail whilst not leading to undue competition distortions. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU State aid rules. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.62762 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website.