MILAN, March 27 The European Commission opened
an investigation on Thursday into Italy's rail freight transport
market for possible breach of EU state aid rules.
The Commision will examine measures that favoured companies
within state-owned railways group Ferrovie dello Stato, namely
its freight transport units Trenitalia and FS Logistica, it
In particular it will investigate the transfer of railway
infrastructure assets to the two Ferrovie dello Stato's units
for free between 2007-2011, saying that these transfers might
also affect trade between member states.
It will also look into payments Italian authorities have
made to Trenitalia since 2000 under an obligation the company
had to transport freight from and to southern Italy to ensure a
The Commission said public service obligations might not be
necessary for freight services in substantial parts of Italy,
given that competitors were already providing similar services
without such compensations.
Ferrovie dello Stato said it would cooperate with Italian
and European authorities to help resolve the case quickly.
It added that the group had accumulated significant losses
on public freight transportation services over the years as
compensations were well below the costs of running the services.
There was no timetable given for the EU to conduct its
investigation. Italy will have to recover the aid if it is found
to be illegal.
The rail freight market was liberalised in 2003 in Italy and
in 2007 at the EU level. Trenitalia and other Ferrovie dello
Stato companies compete on the freight transport market at
national and EU level with domestic and international rivals.
The Ferrovie dello Stato group is among the largest players
in Europe in the rail freight market. In Italy it competes
against rivals from countries like France, Switzerland and
(Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)