In its European Green Deal Communication published late last year, the European Commission reaffirms its vision of achieving net climate neutrality in Europe by 2050. For the transport sector, which accounts for a quarter of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, a combination of measures will be needed to place the sector on a firm path to sustainable and smart mobility. Along these lines, the Commission has proposed to make 2021 the European Year of Rail, to support the delivery of the objectives of its European Green Deal in the transport area. The role of multimodal transport, in particular, is highlighted as key to increasing the efficiency of the transport system. The overarching goal is to drive a significant modal shift from less environmentally sound transport modes, such as road in particular, but also aviation, towards the greenest modes of transport, namely rail and inland waterways, without compromising the connectivity of goods and persons, which is at the heart of the single market. This in turn will require measures to manage better, and to increase the capacity of railways and inland waterways, which the Commission has pledged to propose by 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit companies in the transport sector particularly hard. There is a broad consensus that the EU and national regulations should seize the opportunities afforded by the recovery plans to exit the crisis to promote the twin green and digital transformations.
The 19th Florence Rail Forum, co-organised by the Transport Area of the Florence School of Regulation together with the European Commission’s DG COMP and DG MOVE, will examine the role of State aid in meeting the challenges of the Green Deal, with two dedicated sessions focusing on rail freight transport as well as rail passenger transport.
Evaluations are currently underway of the relevant State aid guidelines including those pertaining to railways. The Commission considers that any revision will have to reflect the policy objectives of the European Green Deal, support a cost-effective transition to climate neutrality by mid-century, and ensure a level-playing field in the internal market. Investments will indeed be paramount to boosting intermodal freight transport, in particular in transhipment terminals but also more generally in rail infrastructure (to ensure interoperable/sufficient capacity), and, possibly, in rolling stock or technology (e.g. automation for train composition).
The 19th Florence Rail Forum will seek to discuss the situations that justify State aid in order to support investment (in rolling stock or intermodal terminals) as well as operations (start-up aid or longer term operating aid), and moreover, the conditions under which State aid should be declared compatible to make intermodal freight transport attractive. The possibility and conditions to set up public service obligations for (structurally non-viable) rail freight routes is also a key topic for discussion on the way to ensure sufficient capillarity and to address the issue of the unprofitable last mile service.
When it comes to rail passenger transport, the forum will seek to address the key questions surrounding the demonstration of the necessity of public service contracts by public authorities, i.e. how to determine the existence of a ‘genuine public service need’ in order for a public service contract to be awarded.
Please kindly note that this event is by invitation only.
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