2021 was the European Year of Rail and promoted how trains can help the EU become climate-neutral by 2050. Today’s European Railway Summit on the sidelines of the Informal Meeting of Transport Ministers, officially brought the Year to a close. To keep the momentum for rail going, today also marked the official launch of the Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking, the new EU rail research and innovation partnership charged with innovating to make European rail more efficient, affordable and user-friendly.
Looking back at a year focused on rail, European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “2021 was truly a European Year of Rail, with many initiatives putting rail centre-stage across Europe. But more importantly, we saw a first glimpse of the rail renaissance we are working towards, with new rail connections being launched or announced. At EU level, we have an ambitious Action Plan, and we will keep working on faster and better train connections, for both passengers and freight, linking all parts of Europe. Our goal is to ensure that really everyone can choose rail – not only because it is sustainable, but because it is simply the most convenient option.”
The European Year of Rail showed how rail connects people and businesses in a safe and sustainable way across the continent. But it also drew attention to the problems still holding rail back – especially on long-distance, cross-border connections: of all kilometres travelled today by train, only 7% are cross-border trips.
In a bid to change this, the European Commission presented an Action Plan and proposed changes to the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). The Plan sets out concrete steps to make rail journeys quicker, more frequent and more affordable. And the TEN-T, once complete, will cut travel times significantly: from 4.5 hours to 2.5 hours for a train ride from Copenhagen to Hamburg, for example.
The European Year of Rail also strengthened cooperation within the rail sector, as illustrated by the Connecting Europe Express, a special EU train that took the EU’s message on rail across the continent. The train brought together the more than 40 partners from the rail industry and beyond needed to make possible the 200 stops in 26 countries and 33 border crossings.
The Connecting Europe Express finished its journey in Paris last year. So it is fitting that this European Year also ends officially in France, during the French Presidency of the European Union. During this year’s European Year of Youth, rail will stay on the agenda, reflecting young people’s engagement for smart and sustainable mobility solutions.
- Publication date
- 21 February 2022
- Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport