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UNIFE Calls for Increased Rail Funding and Business Support to Modernize Europe’s Rail Network

UNIFE Calls for Increased Rail Funding and Business Support to Modernize Europe’s Rail Network
photo: Peter Shaw / Flickr/Railway tracks
17 / 06 / 2024

More funding for rail programs and better conditions for European business could dramatically modernize both Europe’s rail network and economy, as outlined in a dynamic, forward-thinking strategy from UNIFE.

At the European Rail Industry Association’s 33rd General Assembly in Brussels, new Director General Enno Wiebe outlined the burning priorities of the industry, such as pushing for the modernization of European rail stock and technology, which would require new commitments from both policymakers in Brussels and European Member States.

As part of the General Assembly, the vision manifesto ‘On the Move to a Net-Zero EU: the European Rail Supply Industry Priorities for 2024 – 2029’ was presented to members and political stakeholders, which aims at entrenching the rail industry as a ready-made solution for policymakers seeking a high-tech, high-growth, and near emissions-free mode of transport to partner with.

The broader event was also a platform for the rail industry to discuss boosting competitiveness and simpler regulation, which could address broader flagging growth across the Eurozone, especially as European institutions seek to achieve net-zero targets while managing several geopolitical challenges.

As part of the proceedings, high-level political representatives and rail industry executives also assessed emerging developments in the worldwide rail sector. Attendees received keynote addresses from Georges Gilkinet, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister, and Magda Kopcyznska, the European Commission’s Director General of DG MOVE.

UNIFE’s membership elected to expand its ranks by ratifying the applications of 8 companies: Schunk Transit Systems (DE), Fujikura Europe (UK), Eviden Austria (AT), Trane Technologies International (IE), IKOS Consulting (FR), (IT), Clear CinCom (NL), Bentley Systems (IE).

Subsequently, UNIFE outlined its ongoing commitments to ensuring a strong future for the rail supply industry. The board reaffirmed policies and programs such as UNIFE’s Gender Equity Policy and the activities of the Gender Equity Advisory Group, which alongside the Skill Training Alliance For the Future European Rail system (STAFFER), are aimed at making substantial gains in diversifying and attracting new talent to the rail supply industry.

UNIFE also delivered the results of its anonymous Gender Equity Survey, which found that 64% of women have personally witnessed or experienced gender-related obstacles in the rail industry. In comparison, 69% believe there is a lack of awareness about career opportunities for women across the industry.

The survey attempts to take a snapshot of the barriers and obstacles faced by women working in the rail supply industry while gathering suggestions for practical improvements.

In a positive contrast and sign of progress, 84% responded favorably to ‘Are there any specific policies or practices in your organization that promote gender equality and inclusivity?’, while 86% responded in the affirmative when prompted ‘If you went to your direct manager with a gender-specific issue, do you believe there would be support provided?’

Quotes attributable to Enno Wiebe, UNIFE Director General:

“It is a pleasure to be welcomed into a community and industry which seeks excellence – not just for itself, but for the benefit of Europe and its regions.”

“The rail supply industry is central to Europe’s future prosperity. Home to current and future European champions, our industry continues to be a force at the forefront of innovation, emissions reductions, and promoting significant job creation in mobility.”

Quotes attributable to Michael Peter, Chair of the UNIFE Presiding Board and CEO of Siemens Mobility:

“We are in pivotal times and need a strong industry voice for rail. Together we must raise awareness about our role in reaching our climate targets, about the prosperity our industry provides, and how a competitive and fair market for rail contributes to Europe’s future.“

“Our priorities remain clear, and their importance has never been greater. We must accelerate the ERTMS roll-out, we must seek investment, and work for the harmonization of operational rules. It is the only way we can double rail freight and treble high-speed rail traffic by 2050 and reach our climate goals.“

Quotes attributable to Georges Gilkinet, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister:

"We must unleash the full potential of both day and night trains. During the Belgian Presidency, we made sure to organize the final agreement on the TEN-T regulation."

"Modal shift towards rail transport must be the priority of the next mandate. We must set ambitious targets. There must also be a level playing field with other modes of transport."

"While the Connecting Europe Facility has a track record of working towards greening transport, our work however cannot be met with EU budgets alone. I will discuss this further next week with my colleagues. I believe we must also work together to reduce costs. Together with operators and infrastructure managers, especially on ETCS and ERTMS."

Quotes attributable to Magda Kopcyznska, the European Commission’s Director General of DG MOVE:

“Rail plays a pivotal role in our transition to a sustainable and smart transport system, and the contributions of UNIFE members are integral to this journey. You have a significant opportunity to support the standardization of the European rail market by increasing the adoption of modern trains and signaling systems and promoting the digitalization of railway infrastructure through the deployment of ERTMS. Together, we can create a resilient and sustainable network that benefits European citizens and industries while developing a global trademark to enhance the competitiveness of the EU rail industry.”

Source: UNIFE Press Releases