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State Aid

State aid: Formal investigation of bus transport services in Oslo

28.3.2012

PR(12)18

Today, the EFTA Surveillance Authority opened a formal investigation into the financing of local scheduled bus transport services in Oslo in the period from 1994 until 2008. 

The publicly owned companies AS Oslo Sporveier and AS Sporveisbussene provided such bus transport services in the relevant time period under a system of directly awarded concessions with tariff limits set by the public authorities. In return, the system envisaged annual compensation by the public authorities of the costs not covered by ticket revenue.

The case is based on a complaint in which it was alleged that the mentioned companies have benefitted from certain compensatory measures which went beyond the cost of the service, and that this has enabled the recipient to cross subsidise other commercial transport services. The Authority closed the complaint by way of a decision in June 2010 finding that no measures needed to be taken since the aid in question was granted under  a system of existing aid. That decision was later, in August 2011, annulled by the EFTA Court. The Authority is therefore assessing the case anew.

The Authority acknowledges that the transport service at issue qualify as a service of general economic interest. For such services the EEA agreement  permits state aid to be granted,  provided that certain conditions are met. In particular, the rules require that the compensation does not cover more than the cost of the service, including a reasonable profit for the provider.

In order to clarify whether all the compensation paid to AS Oslo Sporveier and AS Sporveisbussene in the relevant period of time constitute such compatible public service compensation the Authority has decided to initiate the formal investigation procedure.

In the course of that procedure the Authority will also assess whether the compensation to the companies have been made on the basis of a system of existing aid predating the EEA Agreement or whether the payments should be considered as new aid measures. This distinction between new and existing aid is important since aid granted on the basis of an existing system of aid can not be recovered even if it should have been incompatible.

The decision to open a formal investigation procedure is without prejudice to the final decision of the Authority which may conclude that the measures in question do not constitute illegal aid, or that they constitute aid compatible with the EEA Agreement.

The Authority will now call for further comments from the Norwegian authorities and from third parties with an interest in the case. A non-confidential version of the Authority's Decision to open formal investigation will shortly be published on the Authority's website and in the Official Journal of the European Union.

 

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Trygve Mellvang-Berg,
Press and information Officer
tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 66
mob: (+32)(0)492 900 187




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