Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

Brussels, 22 December 2021

The European Commission has launched today a  public consultation on EU Survey inviting all interested parties to comment on a proposed revision of the 2008 Guidelines on State aid for railway undertakings (the ‘Railway Guidelines’). Interested parties can respond to the consultation until 16 March 2022.

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

Today, we invite all interested parties to share their views on proposed targeted changes of the Railway Guidelines. We want to make it easier for Member States to support less polluting and more sustainable transport solutions than road-only transport, such as rail, inland waterway and intermodal transport. Because consumers need choices when it comes to transport modes and low-emission mobility. In the 2021 European Year of Rail, this is a big step towards decarbonising Europe’s transport sector and making rail more attractive, while limiting the competition distortions.

The Railway Guidelines set out the conditions under which aid to railway companies may be considered compatible with the internal market and State aid rules, in particular on the basis of Article 93 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’).

The long-standing lack of interoperability, alongside the strong need for further digitalisation, is holding back the development of seamless, cross-border rail services. State aid can help address these market failures and improve the competitiveness of rail, thus facilitating modal shift, cutting transport emissions and reducing road congestion.

The Commission has conducted an evaluation of the current Railway Guidelines as part of the State aid Fitness Check. The evaluation showed that the current Guidelines have made an important contribution to encouraging a modal shift to rail, which generates lower external costs than other modes of transport such as the road one, and to promoting interoperability to ensure the different technical systems of the EU’s railways work together. At the same time, the evaluation showed that adjustments of the existing rules are necessary to reflect the latest market and regulatory developments and enable the rail sector to embrace the green and digital transition in line with the Commission’s priorities, in particular those of European Green Deal.

The launch of the revision of the Railway Guidelines takes place in the European Year of Rail, as a natural follow-up to the adoption of the European Green Deal and of the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.

In this context, the Commission is launching the revision process of the Railway Guidelines. The public consultation published today takes the form of a questionnaire that will help the Commission identify the necessary changes and better design the new rules.

More specifically, the proposed revision considers:

  • Simplifying the rules on aid for coordination of transport that support the modal shift to more sustainable transport solutions.
  • Extending the scope of the Railway Guidelines, in particular to include all relevant transport operators in the intermodal chain, which contribute to the modal shift of freight from road to less polluting and more sustainable transport solutions.
  • Removing barriers to market entry or expansion of new market players, in particular as regards access to suitable rolling stock and vessels.
  • Ensuring the modernisation of fleets and the networks’ interoperability.
  • Contributing to avoid cross-subsidisation between the commercial activities and those subject to public service obligations of vertically-integrated railway companies.
  • Assessing the need for rules on public transport services in all areas of rail transport that were not yet covered by the current Guidelines, in particular for freight services.
  • Assessing the need for adjusted rescue and restructuring rules applicable to railway undertakings.

Stakeholders can submit their responses to the questionnaire on the Commission’s Better Regulation Portal until 16 March 2022.

Next Steps

The revision of the Railway Guidelines will be carried out in line with the policy priorities defined in the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.

The adoption of the new Railway Guidelines is foreseen for the end of 2023.

Background

On 1 October 2021, the Commission published an inception impact assessment concerning the revision of the Railway Guidelines. Interested parties could share their feedback until 29 October 2021.

On the same date, the Commission published a roadmap concerning an initiative aiming to enable the Commission to adopt a new block exemption regulation for railway, inland waterway and intermodal transport, and to facilitate the granting of aid to promote less polluting transport solutions. This initiative is closely linked to the revision of the Railway Guidelines, as it paves the way for further procedural simplifications that will allow Member States to implement certain aid measures in favour of rail and sustainable transport solutions without prior Commission scrutiny. The Commission will submit a proposal to Council in the beginning of 2022.

Source – EU Commission