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Mobility and Transport

Rail Research and Shift2Rail

What are the challenges?

Rising traffic demand, congestion, security of energy supply and climate change are some of the major issues that the European Union and the wider world are facing. Tackling these challenges will require the railway sector to take on a larger share of the transport demand in the next few decades.

EU research and innovation must help rail play a new, broader role in global transport markets, both by addressing pressing short-term problems that drain rail business operations and resources, and by helping the sector achieve a stronger market position, in particular by supporting the creation of a Single European Railway Area.

The European Rail Traffic Management Systems (ERTMS), in particular, is a prime example of how the European rail sector can drive innovation and support the creation of a unified railway area and improve efficiency, while opening up significant business opportunities for the European rail industry, both in and outside the EU.

However, past rail research and innovation (R&I) efforts at EU level have suffered from fragmentation and inefficiencies, and have not always been sufficiently targeted towards the broader policy goals of completing the Single European Railway Area, and of increasing the competitiveness and attractiveness of the European rail sector and the rail manufacturing industry. Furthermore, the market uptake and impact of EU rail R&I projects under previous framework programmes has often been low and slow, although there are examples of EU-funded R&I investments resulting in outputs that have been and are still being taken up by the market.

The Union contributed roughly EUR 150 million to rail research projects. Further information on the rail research projects funded under FP7 .

What is the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking?

The Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (S2R JU) is a new public-private partnership in the rail sector, established under Horizon 2020, to provide a platform for coordinating research activities with a view to driving innovation in the rail sector in the years to come. It was established on 7 July 2014, following the entry into force of Council Regulation (EU) No 642/2014 of 16 June 2014 establishing the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking .

The rationale for setting up a Joint Undertaking is that the pooling and coordination of R&I efforts at EU level stands a better chance of success given the transnational nature of the infrastructure and technologies to be developed in support of the Single European Railway Area, and the need to achieve a sufficient mass of resources.

Rail research conducted within Shift2Rail must contribute to addressing the challenges faced by the rail sector through a comprehensive and coordinated approach to research and innovation focusing on the needs of the rail system and of its users. In particular, it should prioritise the following objectives:

  • Achieve the Single European Railway Area through the removal of remaining technical obstacles holding back the rail sector in terms of interoperability and through the transition to a more integrated, efficient and safe EU railway market, guaranteeing the proper interconnection of technical solutions.
  • Radically enhance the attractiveness and competitiveness of the European railway system to ensure a modal shift towards rail through a faster and cheaper transition to a more attractive, user-friendly (including for persons with reduced mobility), efficient, reliable, and sustainable European rail system.
  • Help the European rail industry to retain and consolidate its leadership on the global market for rail products and services by ensuring that R&I activities and results can provide a competitive advantage to EU industries and stimulate and accelerate the market uptake of innovative technologies.

The activities of the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (S2R JU) are identified in a common, forward-looking strategic Master Plan and are organised around five key "Innovation Programmes": cost-efficient and reliable trains, including High-Speed and high-capacity trains; advanced traffic management & control systems; cost-efficient and reliable high capacity infrastructure; IT Solutions for Attractive Railway Services; Technologies for Sustainable & Attractive European Freight.

The Founding Members of the Joint Undertaking are the European Union plus eight key players from the rail industry, including rail equipment manufacturers Alstom, Ansaldo STS, Bombardier, Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF), Siemens and Thales, as well as infrastructure managers Network Rail and Trafikverket. These have already committed at least €30 million each to Shift2Rail.

Additional members are being selected through an open call that launched in October 2014, on the basis of an assessment of the contribution they can make to the objectives of S2R, as laid down in the Shift2Rail Regulation and in the Shift2Rail Master Plan. The aim of the open call is to ensure that the railway operating community and other important public and private stakeholders in the railway sector, as well as research organisations, SMEs and actors from outside the sector, are fully represented.

What results and benefits do we expect?

Shift2Rail will contribute to:

  • Cutting the life-cycle cost of railway transport (i.e. costs of building, operating, maintaining, renewing and dismantling infrastructure and rolling stock) by as much as 50 %;
  • Doubling railway capacity;
  • Increasing reliability and punctuality by as much as 50 %.

What is the budget for rail R&I under Horizon 2020?

The Shift2Rail JU will manage the entire budget for rail research under Horizon 2020.

The EU’s financial contribution to the S2R JU will amount to a maximum of EUR 450 million from the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme, of which EUR 52 million has already been earmarked under the Horizon 2020 Transport Work Programme 2014-2015.

To access this funding, the rail industry will have to commit to a contribution of at least EUR 470 million, meaning the entire estimated budget of the S2R JU will be at least EUR 920 million for the period 2014-2020.

In accordance with Article 17 of the S2R Statutes, the JU will carry out its work plan through two mechanisms:

  • Up to 70 % of the EU’s financial contribution to the S2R Joint Undertaking will be implemented though financial support to S2R members, through appropriate measures such as the awarding of grants following calls for proposals, of which
    • up to 40 % of the EU’s financial contribution will be allocated to the founding members other than the EU and their affiliated entities;
    • up to 30 % of the EU’s financial contribution will be allocated to the associated members and their affiliated entities;
  • At least 30% of the EU’s contribution to the S2R JU budget will be implemented by outsourcing tasks through competitive calls for proposals and calls for tenders for non-JU members.

How will the S2R JU be managed?

Within the S2R JU, all relevant stakeholders will be involved in the decision-making processes and share responsibilities.

The main bodies of the S2R JU are: the Governing Board, in charge of strategic decision-making; and the Executive Director, responsible for day-to-day management. The European Commission and the industrial JU members will have equal voting rights in the Governing Board.

There are also be two advisory bodies: a Scientific Committee and a States' Representatives Group.

In addition, the S2R JU will establish a number of working groups to ensure the wide participation and close involvement of experts from all relevant stakeholders from the full rail value chain and from outside the traditional rail industry. In particular, "user requirements" and "implementation/deployment" working groups will be created in order to gather the expertise from actors that may not necessarily be members of the S2R JU, such as the rail operating community and other rail private and public stakeholders, bodies representing customers (passengers and freight), and actors outside the traditional rail sector.



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


Policy and other related documents

Shift2Rail factsheet (9 July 2014)

Impact assessment accompanying the proposal for a Council Regulation establishing the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking

Resume of the impact assessment accompanying the proposal for a Council Regulation establishing the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking

Annual Activity Report 2014 (31 March 2015)

Rules of Procedure of the Governing Board of the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (30 July 2014)

Financial Rules of the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (30 July 2014)

Shift2Rail Master Plan (adopted 31/03/2015)

Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking budgets 2014/2015 (15 October 2014)

Establishment of Working Groups (15 October 2014)

Call for expression of interest for the selection of Members of the Scientific Committee of the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (15 October 2014)