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EU transport ministers call for a transition to intermodal mode of transport so that rail can grow faster than the wider economy in the near future

EU transport ministers call for a transition to intermodal mode of transport so that rail can grow faster than the wider economy in the near future
photo: Archives/Railway
18 / 06 / 2021

EU transport ministers, who met in person, unequivocally supported the role of rail at the heart of sustainable mobility by adopting two sets of EU Council conclusions.

The European Transport Council recognised the central role that railways must play 'to increase the overall sustainability of the EU economy and to achieve the EU's climate objectives'.

The agreed conclusions of the summit raise a number of innovative issues affecting the railway industry in Europe. These include the impact of Covid-19 on European mobility; the need to promote railway research and innovation; the importance of TEN-T corridors and rail freight transport; revitalization of night services; the need to strengthen long-distance and cross-border passenger trains; the introduction of ERTMS; efforts to further digitise passenger and freight operations.

As regards the switchover, the Council conclusions stressed that 'rail transport is responsible for only 0,4% of CO2 emissions caused by transport, despite having a share of 8% of passenger transport and 19% of freight transport in Europe. For this reason, switching to a different mode of transport from carbon-intensive regimes to rail is probably the most effective way of decarbonising transport in large parts of the EU. "

However, ministers noted that despite efforts to liberalise the rail market and harmonise technical standards in recent years, "a significant shift towards the integration of European railways has not yet been achieved, despite progress made in individual market segments."

Achieving the desired shift to another mode of transport would require "strengthening the attractiveness and competitiveness of the railway by improving rail services tailored to customer requirements and effectively optimising multimodal solutions between rail and other modes of transport," he added. "Overall, a real transition to a different mode of transport will require an increase in rail traffic volume that will outperform economic growth."

International platform for rail passengers

At the insudy of a group led by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water were Ministers presented with up-to-date information on progress in the development of the International Rail Passenger Platform, an initiative based on cooperation between 27 national governments, railway sector organisations and the European Commission.

Ministers have been told that work needs to be accelerated at a number of key locations, particularly international rail bookings, where data sharing and cooperation between retailers in the field of travel within two years are expected to bring tangible improvements in the availability and integration of international tickets and booking processes.

The European Commission has agreed to publish a railway action plan by the end of this year, which sets out how 15 pilot projects for extended cross-border passenger transport will be implemented by 2030.

Commenting on the outcome of the Council meeting, CER Executive Director Alberto Mazzola said that "this is probably the most appropriate way to celebrate the first semester of the European Railway Year, and I must congratulate the Portuguese Presidency and the entire Council on unanimously agreeing to a statement that is ambitious and clear in its objectives.

"The Council conclusions are a clear call for us to be courageous about switching modes of transport and to start the fundamental processes that should be implemented. We expect this to represent a real political agenda that the Council, together with other EU institutions, will retain as a reference in the near and distant future - starting with the further revision of the TEN-T Regulation. "