Sunday 22 July 2007

Formal investigation into payments to Irish Bus and Dublin Bus

The European Commission has decided to open a formal investigation regarding the annual operating compensation payments for urban, suburban and regional bus transport services, as well as investment and training grants to the companies - Irish Bus and Dublin Bus.

The Commission has to examine whether these measures are in line with the European legislation.

Ireland is, therefore, requested to submit its comments and to provide all information needed for the Commission to assess the measures.

Following a complaint - submitted by a representative body of private bus operators - the Commission will investigate whether the annual operating compensation payments (including the financing of the replacement and expansion of bus fleets) and the granted investment and training subsidies for the benefit of the subsidiaries of Córas Iompair Éireann (CIE) - Irish Bus and Dublin Bus - are compatible with the EC State aid rules.

In its decision, the Commission identifies three issues -

* First of all, the Commission has doubts whether the compensation respects EC State aid rules, especially those related to public services obligations[1].
* The Commission also has doubts whether the grants are compatible with the common market. In fact, the dedicated infrastructure (partially financed upgrades of bus stations, garages and maintenance facilities) is not available on an equal basis to all potential bus operators.
* As regards the training subsidies, the Irish authorities did not provide the Commission with the necessary information on the modalities, duration, budget, intensity and further conditions of the grants. Therefore, the Commission cannot take a position on this measure.[2]

The Commission calls on interested parties to submit their comments on State aid granted to Irish Bus and Dublin Bus.

[1] Council Regulation (EC) No 1191/69 of 26 June 1969 on action by Member States concerning the obligation inherent in the concept of a public service in transport by rail, road and inland waterway, (OJ L 156, 28/06/1969, p. 1)

[2] Commission Regulation No 68/2001 on the application of Articles 87 and 88 of the EC Treaty to training aid of 12 January 2001 (OJ L 10, 13 January 2001, page 20-29) amended by the Commission Regulation No 363/2004 of 25 February 2004 (OJ L 63, 28 February 2004, page 20-21) and Commission Regulation No 1976/2006 of 20 December 2006 (OJ L 368, 23 December 2006, page 85-86).

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