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State Aid

State aid: Investigation of bus transport services in Aust-Agder opened

6.2.2013

PR(13)07

  

Today, the EFTA Surveillance Authority opened a formal investigation into the financing of local scheduled and school bus transport services in Aust-Agder, Norway, in the period from 1994 until today. 

Aust-Agder has directly awarded concessions to initially seven bus operators (five since 2009) for the provision of bus transport services in the relevant time period. Aust-Agder also paid annual compensation for the costs not covered by ticket revenue. 

The case is based on a complaint in which it was alleged that the mentioned bus operators have benefitted from excessive compensation, and that this has enabled the recipients to cross-subsidise other commercial transport services. 

The Authority acknowledges that the transport services at issue qualify as services of general economic interest. For such services the EEA agreement permits compensation, provided that such compensation covers only the cost of the service, including a reasonable profit for the providers. 

In order to clarify whether the compensation constitutes state aid and, if so, whether it is compatible with the rules, the Authority has decided to initiate the formal investigation procedure. In the course of that procedure the Authority will also assess whether the compensation has been made on the basis of an existing aid scheme predating the EEA Agreement or whether it should be considered as new aid. Aid granted on the basis of an existing aid scheme cannot be recovered even if it constitutes incompatible aid. 

In addition, the Authority opened a formal investigation into additional financing to Nettbuss Sør AS, which has received annual direct grants of around NOK 1 million  since 2004 (NOK 2 million since 2010) on the basis of an inter-municipal transport project that aims to maintain improved transport services in the areas concerned. 

The decision to open a formal investigation procedure is without prejudice to the final decision of the Authority. 

The Authority will now call for further comments from the Norwegian authorities and third parties with an interest in the case. A non-confidential version of the Authority's Decision to open the 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 & Information Officer
tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 66
mob. (+32)(0)492 900 187




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