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Mobility and Transport
News article22 September 2016Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport4 min read

EU triples funding for rail innovation


EU triples funding for rail innovation

The European Commission today adopted "Shift2Rail", a new public-private partnership to invest just under €1 billion in research and innovation to get more passengers and freight onto Europe's railways. Rail is amongst the most efficient and climate-friendly forms of transport, but currently it only carries about only 10% of European cargo and 6% of passengers each year.

The European Commission Vice President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport said, "If we want to get more passengers and freight on Europe's railways, then rail needs provide better services and offer an attractive choice to more customers. For that to happen, rail needs to innovate. This public private partnership is a major breakthrough, it will drive innovation to reduce the costs of rail services, increase capacity and provide more reliable, frequent rail services for customers."

Commissioner for Research Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "This investment will allow for a major industrial effort, combining public and private funding from throughout the whole rail sector, to develop strategic technologies and solutions that will help to strengthen the competitiveness of European businesses and retain Europe's leadership in the global rail market. This is a perfect demonstration of the leverage effect of the EU budget for growth and jobs."

Shift to Rail

"Shift2Rail" is an ambitious public-private partnership which will manage a 7-year work programme of targeted research and innovation to support the development of better rail services in Europe. It will develop and accelerate the bringing to market of technological breakthroughs.

With "Shift2Rail", the Commission is more than tripling its financing for rail research and innovation to €450 million (2014-2020) compared to €155 million for the previous period. This will be matched by €470 million from the rail industry. The net gains of this long term collaborative approach will give a very substantial boost to innovation in the rail industry, compared to previous co-funding of individual projects.

Shift2Rail aims to deliver: a reduction, by up to 50%, in the life-cycle cost of railway transport (i.e. costs of building, operating, maintaining and renewing infrastructure and rolling stock); an overall increase in capacity of up to 100%; and an overall increase in reliability of up to 50% in the different rail market segments.

The research and innovation will focus on five key areas:

  • To improve the quality of services , it will focus on developing a new generation of high capacity trains which are cost-efficient and reliable;
  • To increase capacity and get more trains running on the same lines – it will develop better intelligent traffic management and control systems;
  • To provide reliable, high quality, infrastructure, including reducing track noise, cutting costs and developing intelligent maintenance
  • To provide integrated ticketing and journey planners – it will develop innovative IT solutions and services;
  • To allow rail to compete effectively in more markets, it will develop better logistics and inter-modal freight solutions, so rail can connect better with other forms of transport.

The establishment of a rail joint undertaking – a public-private partnership called Shift2Rail – will enable the pooling of public and private resources to focus on research activities critical to delivering the Single European Railway Area and to supporting the competitiveness of the rail sector as a whole, creating jobs and boosting exports. The project will involve virtually all of Europe’s rail industry suppliers, including innovative small and medium enterprises, to accelerate the development of new technologies and bring them to the market. It will also involve rail operators and infrastructure managers in order to ensure that research activities are aligned to market needs. To date, rail equipment manufacturers Alstom, Ansaldo STS, Bombardier, Siemens, Thales and CAF, as well as infrastructure managers Trafikverket and Network Rail, have already confirmed that they will each make a contribution of at least €30 million to the Shift2Rail initiative (total €270 million).


Europe is facing major challenges in terms of rising congestion, increasing traffic demand and the need to build sustainable transport connections to fuel economic growth.

Yet, despite positive developments in some markets, rail is stagnating or declining in many EU Member States. The modal share of passenger rail in intra-EU transport has on average remained more or less constant since 2000, at around 6%, whereas the modal share of rail freight has decreased from 11.5% to 10.2%.

Faced with this reality, the European Commission has responded on three fronts

  1. With a major package of measures to restructure the rail market in Europe (4th railway package) LINK 4th rail IP
  2. Tripling investment in European infrastructure from the current 8 billion to 26 billion 2014-2020. Over 80% of this will be spent to rail. LINK TEN-T/CEF (New EU infrastructure policy)
  3. Tripling of investment in rail research and innovation, notably under the new Shift to Rail programme.

For more information:

EU triples funding for rail innovation [IP/13/1250]

The Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking – Frequently Asked Questions [MEMO/13/1143]

Speech [SPEECH/13/1075]

Proposal for a Council Regulation establishing the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking

Council Regulation (EU) No 642/2014 of 16 June 2014 establishing the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking

Impact assessment

Resume impact assessment



Publication date
22 September 2016
Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport