EC approves Italian rail freight funding scheme
The European Commission (EC) has given the green light to an Italian funding scheme aimed at supporting the shift of freight from road to rail in the northern province of Bolzano. Running until 2019 and with an overall budget of nine million Euros, it aims to increase the share of rail and intermodal freight transport though the Brenner Corridor, the international transit route across the Alps linking Germany, Austria and Italy.
Financial support will be available for the provision of freight services run by rail providers and multimodal operators along the Alto Adige/Südtirol section of the 120 kilometre-long rail transport corridor between Brenner and Salorno. The aid takes the form of an EU subsidy for operators, the level of which will be based on the reduction of the external costs, such as pollution, noise, congestion and accidents, achieved by rail over road transport.
The Commission says the project is beneficial for the environment and mobility, as it supports the environmentally-friendly option of rail transport, and cuts road congestion. As a result, it concluded that the scheme complies with EU State Aid rules, in particular the criteria set out in the 2008 Commission Guidelines on State Aid for Railway Undertakings.
Freight transport along the Brenner road corridor has been steadily increasing since 2013, and this trend goes against the EU’s objective of getting freight from road to rail as set out in the Commission’s White Paper on Transport Policy. In 2015, 43.9 million tonnes of freight were moved along the corridor, the vast majority of which was by road with 71 per cent, against 29 per cent by rail, so it is hoped the new scheme will incentivise providers to develop the rail option further.
The Brenner route sits right at the heart of the European rail freight network, and is part of the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Rail Freight Corridor (Scan-Med RFC), which spans some 7,500 kilometres on the north-south axis. Intermodal trains currently account for around 36 per cent of the corridor’s freight transport, while single wagon loads are slightly more, at 38 per cent.
This latest funding scheme another significant boost to the Italian rail freight market, following a deal agreed in October between state operator RFI and the regions of Piedmont, Liguria and Lombardia to increase intermodal transport services in these three areas.