In a long awaited decision, the European Commission has approved €96.5M of financial support to the Slovak incumbent rail operator, ZSSK, for the building of new light maintenance workshops in for passenger trains as being compatible with EU State Aid rules.
For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of railway operations, light maintenance covers routine work that does not require the removal of the train carriage from service, and includes cleaning, refilling the water supply, and other small repairs. The workshops themselves shall be located in Nove Zamky, Zvolen and Humenne.
In its decision, the Commission found that the aid will contribute to objectives of common interest of the EU, in particular in helping shift transport from the road to rail, and fostering environmental protection and decongestion of roads.
Additionally , Slovakia has offered firm commitments to ensure that the State Aid will not hinder competition in the Slovak rail transport market, in relation to the access to light maintenance facilities. In particular, after the initial construction phase is concluded, ownership of the workshops will be transferred to a separate company to be set up by the Ministry of Transport and Construction.
Moreover, while operation of the workshops will initially be carried out by ZSSK, in the future, it can be transferred to other rail transport companies, if they win new tenders for rail transport services under Public Service Contracts.
In addition, whereas the workshops will serve mainly trains operated by ZSSK, an equal and non-discriminatory access for other train operators is safeguarded pursuant to EU transport rules for the railway sector.
The non-confidential version of the Commission’s decision will be published under the case number SA.42525 in the State Aid Register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.