Helsingin Bussiliikenne received 54.2 million euros in incompatible state aid between 2000 and 2012, according to an investigation by the European Commission. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

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HELSINKI REGION TRANSPORT (HSL) has asked Koiviston Auto to account for how its operations will be affected by a recent decision by the European Commission, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

The European Commission announced at the end of last month that a total of 54.2 million euros in incompatible state aid was paid in 2000–2012 to Helsingin Bussiliikenne (Helb), a bus operator acquired by Koiviston Liikenne in 2016.

The commission said its investigation confirmed that no private market creditor would have granted the loans to the bus operator under such beneficial terms, especially in light of the financial difficulties of Helb. The loans were ruled to have provided the company with an unfair economic advantage over its competitors and, as a result, to have violated the state aid regulations of the EU.

“Finland must now recover this aid from Helb,” reads a press release issued by the European Commission on 28 June.

Koiviston Auto told Helsingin Sanomat that a decision to claw back the aid would mean the end of its operations. That, in turn, would have a notable impact on bus services in the capital region, given that the company operates roughly 300 buses and provides 25 per cent of the services, according to the newspaper.

Ilmari Mäkinen, the head of administration and strategy at HSL, said to Helsingin Sanomat that HSL is monitoring the situation and holding discussions with Helb. “We’re naturally also looking into how the services would be taken care of in the worst-case scenario.”

“I doubt anything will happen immediately,” he added.

The ruling currently has no impact whatsoever on bus transport in the capital region, assured Antti Norrlin, the chief executive of Koiviston Auto. “We’re continuing our work and everything is working as usual. The decision shouldn’t have an impact on transport arrangements for years,” he commented to Helsingin Sanomat.

Koiviston Auto, he added, intends to file an appeal against the decision with the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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