COVID–19 - Creating a Fair and Balanced Temporary State Aid Framework for Rail Freight

Rail freight will face significant challenges to continued operations over the coming months, particularly in light of a significant slowdown in industrial output due to national measures taken to control the outbreak of COVID-19. These short-term measures could cause longer term damage to the sector, namely the disappearance of operators and capacity, if measures are not taken to support the industry. ERFA and UIP therefore call for State support measures to be granted to Infrastructure Managers coupled with a short-term waiving of Track Access Charges and Energy Charges for rail freight undertakings.

The outbreak of COVID-19, and national responses to stem to spread of the virus, have created significant challenges to the short-to-medium term viability of rail freight operations. Industrial output is limited and this is leading to a reduced demand for freight movement, including rail freight. These national responses are merited and supported, but it must still be recognised that measures are warranted to support the industry.

Given the exemptional circumstances, ERFA and UIP believe it is appropriate to use Article 107(2)(b) and Article 107(3)b of the TFEU to allow Member States to assist the sector over the coming months. Any mechanism must be horizontal, sectoral and compliant with existing competition rules. The objective of any aid must solely be to assist all operators on a short-term basis and solely address difficulties directly or indirectly related to the slowdown of economic input and reduction of traffic.

ERFA and UIP strongly believe that short-term support is essential in order to ensure that rail freight undertakings are in a healthy condition once industrial output resume. Without government actions there is a risk that operators will cease to exist or have to significantly reduce their capacity which would have a longer lasting impact on Europe’s modal shift objectives.

We therefore believe that state support is warranted and necessary, but must be done in a way that benefits the rail freight industry equally and only addresses short-term issues related to COVID-19.



Joint letter from the European rail sector on concrete measures to face the COVID‐19 pandemic and its economic consequences

Joint Letter from the European Rail Sector

We, the representatives of European railways, combined transport and wagon load operators, wagon keepers, workshops and mobile services associations, on behalf of our members and of the European rail and intermodal sectors would like to thank all public authorities at all levels – European,  national  and  local – for  their  efforts  to  ensure  a  coordinated  and  quick  European  response to the health and economic crises triggered by the COVID‐19 pandemic.

We, UIP, together with CER, ERFA, UIRR & All Rail, underline the following measures:

  • Recognise railway as a strategic asset in keeping freight moving
  • Use the new State aid Temporary Framework correctly and widely to ensure the fair and adequate support for all railway actors
  • Guarantee short‐term liquidity, in particular to keep these businesses alive and secure jobs
  • Exempt rail staff as strategic workforce from national rules such as travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine
  • Keep rail service, including maintenance activities, up and running

UIP Report "Noise - State of play"

Noise continues to be high on the European agenda where noise creation aspects are legislated and on the national one where noise reception is dealt with according to the subsidiary principles. Accordingly, all European countries have noise reception limit values for new railway lines and in almost all Member States limit values exist also for upgraded lines.

Initial considerations towards noise in rail transport were taken through the Interoperability Directive (EU) 2016/797 and the Noise Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI NOISE). In addition, the Environmental Noise Directive 2002/49/EC (END) requires Member States to submit noise maps and action plans to assess the number of people exposed to different noise emission levels throughout Europe. However, the END does not define any noise limit values nor does it prescribe the measures to be taken in these action plans. Consequently, different pathways are being pursued at both European and national levels.