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Commission approves French support for Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle rail line

The European Commission has approved French government plans to support the construction of an express railway line between Paris and Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle airport.27 Jun 2017

France plans to grant state aid to a joint venture between SNCF Réseau and Aéroports de Paris, which will build and operate a direct express railway line between the airport and the Gare de l'Est train station in Paris. The total estimated cost of the project is €1.32 billion, and the 32 kilometre line is expected to start operation in 2023, the Commission said.

The aid will take the form of a tax free grant that will be financed through a levy imposed on all air passengers using the airport, except those in transit.

A state guarantee mechanism known as "cession Dailly acceptée" will also guarantee payment of the concessionaire's loans, the Commission said.

These measures will contribute to a better coordinated and more sustainable transport system, and are necessary and proportionate, it said.

The investigation was particularly interested in the air passengers' levy, but this will not exceed the funding gap of the project, and clawback mechanisms and revision clauses will make sure that the concessionaire is not overcompensated through this levy, the Commission said.

The operator of the passenger transport services using the new infrastructure will be chosen through a competitive, transparent and non-discriminatory tender.

State aid expert Caroline Ramsay of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: "This decision, combined with the recently announced expansion of the general block exemption regulation (GBER) to port infrastructure, indicates that the European Commission is taking a measured and pragmatic view towards public investment in essential transport infrastructure."

The European Commission has proposed to exempt state investment aid to port and airports from scrutiny under EU state aid rules. In March it asked for feedback on the extension of GBER to cover ports and airports, as part of the state aid modernisation (SAM) initiative.