The first measure for rail freight concerns an amendment to the 2020 budget for an existing grant scheme approved before the pandemic, increasing the level of available funding to €150.7m for the remainder of the year. The second will enable Austria to waive track access charges for freight operators from March 1 to December 31 and has a budget of €115.7m. The EC says the programmes are intended to reinforce the shift of road freight to rail. 

For passenger operators providing services on a commercial basis, the EC has backed the waiving of track access charges in a scheme expected to be worth €9m that will run from October 8 until December 31.  

The Austrian government confirmed earlier this month that Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) and Westbahn, which operate inter-city services on the Vienna - Salzburg route, will receive a government subsidy worth a combined €44.5m to continue to operate these trains from November 16 until February 7 2021.

All three measures were approved under European Union (EU) state aid rules. The EC confirmed its support for wider track access relief by Member States in September, which are obliged to inform the EC of any measures they take.

“The measures approved today will enable the Austrian authorities to support not only rail freight transport operators, but also commercial passenger operators in the context of the coronavirus outbreak,” says EC executive vice-president, Ms Margrethe Vestager.

“This will contribute to maintaining their competitiveness compared with other modes of transport, in line with the EU Green Deal objective. We continue working with all Member States to ensure that national support measures can be put in place as quickly and effectively as possible, in line with EU rules.”