EUROPE: The European Commission has fined subsidiaries of Austrian Federal Railways and Deutsche Bahn €17·4m and €31·8m respectively for operating a cartel in the block train sector between July 2004 and June 2012.

Kühne+Nagel was also part of the cartel with the Express Interfracht and Schenker businesses, but was granted immunity and avoided a €62m fine after revealing the existence of the cartel.

Announcing the fines on July 15, the Commission said the three companies had allocated customers, co-ordinated prices and exchanged confidential information on requests for their Balkantrain and Soptrain services.

The Commission said the fines applied solely to their collusion in marketing, and that ‘intrinsic upstream co-ordination’ such as the joint purchasing of traction and other services was not anti-competitive. The fines were reduced because the companies admitted liability and co-operated with the investigation.

‘I find it very disappointing that a project to enhance transport efficiency and promote environmentally-friendly cargo transport was derailed into a cartel’, said Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy. ‘The EU needs rail cargo markets to function efficiently on the basis of effective competition and not to be hijacked by vested interests to the detriment of customers.’