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Assessing the railways subsidy in selected European countries: insights from the Italian case

Arrigo, Ugo and Di Foggia, Giacomo (2013): Assessing the railways subsidy in selected European countries: insights from the Italian case. Published in: European Journal of Business and Economics , Vol. 4, No. 8 (2013): pp. 1-9.

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This paper is aimed at analysing state aid to the railway sector in the Western countries of the European Union. Although this is a preliminary exercise, literature lacks of specificity. From the analysis, a highly differentiated situation in Europe emerges: a group of countries with permanently lower subsidies (the Iberians, the Scandinavians and Austria); a group of countries with a medium level of subsidies (all of the major countries: Germany, France and the UK) and a group of countries with permanently high subsidies (Italy, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands). This paper demonstrates that railways have so far benefited from weakened forms state aid control. This can be motivated (i) by the need for modal rebalance recognised by national transport policies, (ii) by the natural monopolistic character of the network whose duplication is not economically feasible and (iii) by the non-competitive traditional structure, from a legal point of view, of even the transport service. This situation, however, is set to change drastically with the opening up of services to competition, which has already been done in the European Union for the freight sector and in some countries, although only on a voluntary basis, even for the passenger sector. By focusing on Italy, this study finds that the elevated state aid to the rail sector consequently results in both a major public finance problem and a potential factor of competition distortion.

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