A rapid turnaround for a new EU enabling law will see some elements of the state aid rules for rail, inland waterways and multimodal transport relaxed from 19 January.

In a move seen as complementing the Fit For 55 green package and targeting a transition from polluting modes of transport, the enabling law was proposed by EC competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager on 6 July and approved by the Council of Europe on 19 December.

Competition lawyer Philippe Corruble, Professor at Ecole de Management de Normandie, told The Loadstar: “The legal basis on which this law has been presented did require the EC to inform the EU Parliament, but there was no vote there… the Council of Europe can adopt it by a majority vote.”

According to Mr Corruble, the law means governments will only have to notify the EC they will offer state aid, without having to seek prior permission. However, the aid must meet certain parameters and the EC will need to put in place a block exemption to allow govenments to use the rule.

An EC spokeswoman said: “The commission will decide which categories to exempt from the prior notification obligation, with a view to support the shift of freight and passengers from road to less-polluting transport modes, such as rail and inland waterway, as well as to bring about a sustainable and integrated transport system in the EU through multimodal transport.”

Any state aid must “strengthen industrial ecosystems”, and the EC stressed that investments in public transport and infrastructure must “support the shift towards more sustainable and smart mobility, including seamless and efficient European multimodal networks as well as upgrading the Trans-European Transport Network for passengers and freight.”

It is not known when the EC will publish guidelines that will govern the relaxation of the strict state aid rules, but Mr Corruble said the EC would need to balance the need to develop the green infrastructure with the requirement that state funds should not distort the market.

There is a need for speed in the rules, given that the maritime and aviation sectors have now been included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and a second ETS has been established for buildings and road transport.

With the new regulations in place and with the rules set to increase in stringency over the coming years, the EU is keen for supply chain mangers to have a cleaner alternative method for moving freight.

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