Austria announces discount on track access charges
Following the example of France, the Austrian government wants to support rail freight operators with a discount on the user charges for the rail infrastructure. It made this announcement last Saturday. The measures are expected to be implemented this autumn. By then, the European regulation that allows this form of state aid should have been adopted.
In addition to a discount on the user fee, the freight branch of the state rail company ÖBB, ÖBB Rail Cargo Group, will receive a capital injection of 61 million Euros. “During the corona crisis, we saw how important a well-functioning transport chain is. Rail freight in particular has proven to be reliable even in times of crisis”, Minister of Climate Protection Leonore Gewessler said in the Austrian media. “Now that we are on our way out of this crisis, we want to support this reliability. That is why we are reducing the toll for railways. ”
Before this is realised, a legal basis must first be established in the form of a European regulation. The next meeting that can make this possible will take place on 28 September. According to Gewessler, the announced toll reduction should improve the competitive position of rail compared to transport by truck and thus contribute to a better climate.
According to the Austrian trade association of rail companies, the consequences of the COVID crisis for rail freight companies is enormous. “Transport volumes have decreased by more than 25 per cent in Austria and Europe since the corona outbreak. This is not expected to return to pre-crisis levels until 2024. Many of our affiliated companies suffer greatly from the decrease in volumes and high costs. In some cases, survival is unsure”, says chairman of the trade association Thomas Scheiber.
According to the professional association, the project is an important first step towards crisis response. Scheiber calls on the government of his country to make optimal use of the framework of the European regulation. He proposes a discount of at least 50 per cent and for an indefinite period.
The organisation’s wish list also states: the guarantee of a subsidy to offset the fixed costs such as the rental of rolling stock and insurance premiums from a turnover decrease of 25 per cent. And in addition a tax exemption for traction current when operators use green electricity. According to Scheiber, Austria has the highest tax rate on runway electricity in Europe at 15 Euros per MWh. “That makes it difficult to compete with road transport, especially now that the price of diesel is low.”