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Mobility and Transport
News article14 December 2021Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport3 min read

New Action Plan: boosting long-distance and cross-border passenger rail

Year of Rail banner

An Action Plan to boost long-distance and cross-border passenger rail services, combined with changes to the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) to increase high-speed rail capacity, and new European Investment Bank (EIB) support for investment in rail, are preparing the ground for a real renaissance in rail. The plan is part of a package of measures for efficient and green mobility, and will help the EU meet its strategic milestones of doubling high-speed rail traffic by 2030 and tripling it by 2050.

Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “Rail is one of the most sustainable modes of transport we have. And yet, this potential risks going to waste – cross-border trips account for just 7% of the kilometres travelled by train. This Action Plan will help us make rail a more attractive option for long and cross-border journeys. We have identified the main barriers, from redundant national rules to complicated ticketing and the slow uptake of digital technologies. Today we are setting out how to take down these barriers, with passengers being the real winners.”

To overcome the obstacles to long-distance and cross-border passenger rail services identified by the Commission, the Action Plan points the way to:

  • accelerating digitalisation;
  • removing redundant national technical and operational rules;
  • ensuring a better availability of trains, coaches and locomotives (rolling stock);
  • bringing railway staff training and certification in line with future needs;
  • modernising passenger rail infrastructure;
  • more efficient use of the rail network;
  • easier access to infrastructure for rail operators through appropriate pricing;
  • more user-friendly ticketing and access to the rail system;
  • introducing sustainable cross-border and/or multimodal collective transport through Public Service Obligations, where necessary;
  • making sustainable transport modes an attractive option for young people.

These new measures come on top of the existing EU regulatory and policy framework for rail, which equips Member States and the sector with many tools to implement the Single European Rail Area, to remove barriers and to open the market for new players and services. The full and correct implementation of the existing regulatory framework remains key, and the Commission will continue to work towards this, in cooperation with Member States and all stakeholders.

Alongside this Action Plan, the Commission is today presenting a proposal to revise the Trans-European transport network (TEN-T) Regulation. Rail features prominently in the proposal, with new rules to ensure sufficient high-speed rail capacity and connections, including a minimum speed limit of 160 km/h for all passenger services using the main TEN-T rail lines, and measures to improve connections between airports and railways.

The European Investment Bank “Green Rail Investment Platform”, launched today, will help increase the availability of rolling stock. It will support public and private investment in rail projects through existing EIB products and financial instruments under InvestEU, accelerating recovery within the rail sector following the pandemic. The finance will also support electrification, the unlocking of new business models, and the introduction of cutting-edge technologies.

Next steps

Most of the actions outlined in the Plan must be implemented as a matter of urgency. Work will begin in the new year, when the Commission launches a dialogue with rail sector stakeholders with a view to setting up cross-border pilot services. These will be an opportunity to test and implement the measures put forward in today’s Action Plan.


This Action Plan is one of a set of initiatives adopted today to promote efficient and green mobility, in line with the Commission’s Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility. The package also includes revisions of the regulations on TEN-T and Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), as well as a new EU urban mobility framework.

2021 has been the European Year of Rail. Throughout the year, the Commission has highlighted the benefits of rail as a sustainable, smart and safe means of transport. A variety of activities have put rail in the spotlight across the continent, encouraging its use by both citizens and businesses, and helping rail contribute to the European Green Deal goal of making the EU climate-neutral by 2050. Among the highlights was the Connecting Europe Express, a special train criss-crossing the continent for five weeks in the autumn, organised in cooperation with more than 40 partners from the European rail sector.

More information

Questions and Answers: Action Plan to boost long-distance and cross-border passenger rail services


New Initiatives for Efficient and Green Mobility

European Investment Bank launches “Green Rail investment Platform”

14 DECEMBER 2021
Long-distance cross-border passenger rail services - Final report
Long-distance cross-border passenger rail services - Executive summary
14 DECEMBER 2021
Cross-border Passenger Rail Services - Infographics


Official documents

14 DECEMBER 2021
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: Action plan to boost long distance and cross-border passenger rail (COM(2021) 810)



Publication date
14 December 2021
Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport