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The 26th UN Conference of the Parties will be hosted by the UK in Glasgow from 1st to 12th November 2021. This is when country representatives meet together to review progress on their own targets were set to meet the UN target to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the Covid 19 situation, current planning assumes that some kind of physical conference will take place.

As rail emits far less greenhouse gases than air per passenger kilometre travelled, it is essential that delegates, lobbyists and journalists minimise their “carbon footprints” by travelling to and from the conference by Rail where possible. While Glasgow is not geographically “At the Heart of Europe”, those travelling from the UK and Mainland Europe do have a realistic rail alternative. Day time travel combining High Speed trains from Paris,Lille, Brussels & Amsterdam with a short walk in London to Euston station is possible with a journey time of around  8 hours.  Those with a longer journey might wish to stop-over on the way in London, Brussels or Paris for example, and could combine high speed day trains with Night trains. A practical choice could be to buy a 3-day or 5-day within a month Interrail pass.

For this very reason, a group of environmental campaigners (Youth for Sustainable Travel) showed us the way forward when they “Sailed to COP 25” which was due to be held in Santiago in Chile from 2nd – 13th December 2019. While on their way sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, the Chilean President cancelled the conference on the 31st October due to the civil unrest taking place in that country. The conference was then moved to Madrid, due to start on the same date, which did not give them enough time to sail back to Spain. They had, along with Greta Thunberg , publicised the need for all countries to drastically reduce their transport-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Now the same group have now set up “Rail to the Cop” together with young climate activists and experts. Their campaign was launched on 1st May 2021. They are inviting, supporting and encouraging young people from all over Europe to set up regional initiatives for travel to Glasgow by train or to join them in Brussels for the journey.

>> Click here for further information

 Back-on-Track has set up a sub-group which will be supporting their campaign during the course of this year.

New comparison from European Environmental Agency (EEA) on Trains versus Planes

Train or plane?

Two new studies from EEA draw new light on climate impacts and broader environment impacts from European passenger and freight transport. With the new reports we are again able to refer to very solid European figures, when we are discussing the environmental impacts of a modal shift from planes to rail.

The new reports updates an old EEA study from 2014 which was already in 2019 declared for not-updated.

The first study (briefing) from EEA (A) is giving the greenhouse gas perspective.

The second study (EEA report) (B) is giving a more broad environmental perspective. Here greenhouse gasses are complemented by air pollution and noise. And 20 selected cross border travels are compared.

Both studies have the same weaknesses, which will be mentioned below.

Overall conclusion from EEA

EEA (A) concludes: “Trains are the most efficient form of passenger transport in the EU, with GHG emissions per pkm that are only a fraction of most other modes.”

EEA (B) concludes on page 48: “An analysis of 20 city pairs shows that the environmental costs of rail travel are substantially lower than those of air travel.”

Both studies are comparing apples with bananas. With the aim to compare cross border services, you cannot count a rural diesel railcar within a dataset and compare with aviation. You need to compare between same sort of transport: Cross border aviation shall be compared with high speed trains, EC-trains and night trains. Both studies fails on this issue.

Both studies are also weak when it comes to occupancy rates. All sort of trains goes within the average numbers. And planes only with 100% occupancy (I suppose so from study A, since it is not mentioned at all) or with 80% on the most busy routes (study B).

And on the non CO2 related climate impact from aviation, both studies only use a RFI (or GWP) as low as 1,23 (A) or 1,7 (B).

Study A

Figure 1

Click on the picture to get an enlargement!

Study A is probably giving airplanes 100% occupancy rates, underestimating the climate impact, and comparing with a full range of rail transport (GHG’es and occupancy rates).

Study B

The study is using 20 selected travels in Europe between two major cities with air connections and rail connections of which 7 are < 500 km, 7 are 500-750 km, and 6 are 750 – 1100 km. Distances are calculated as car distance, and rail distance is set to the same. Air distance is set to the shortest line between the two cities (which might be a little bit wrong).

What is the environmental cost in study B?

EEA has selected four elements, that they find comprises the environmental costs:

  • Noise
  • Air pollution
  • Fossil fuel consumption on the move
  • Fossil fuel production
  • Non-CO2 related climate impact related to aviation.

And all elements are calculated in EUR to make it possible to make an overall figure. See this conclusive figure 5.4 (page 55):

Figure 2

Click on the picture to get an enlargement!

To mix so different things as climate, air pollution and noise is a very difficult exercise.

  • How to calculate it correct?

Calculation of noise costs for trains are mentioned at page 86, in EUR per train-kilometer:

  • Highspeed train: 0,97
  • Electric train: 1,06
  • Diesel train: 0,81

As we can see this is a very strange calculation, when the aim is about long distance trains.

But how can we meaningful compare noise from an aircraft and a train?

It is very hard. With all respect to noise and air pollution, we should focus alone on climate impact, as study A.

Anyway it is not too complicated with study B to re-calculate, and lets see where that will take us. Now, let us stick to grams of CO2 per passenger kilometer. The price is in the report 100 EUR per emitted ton of CO2, so figure 5.4 can be re-calculated.

How is the climate impact calculated?

In figure 5.4 (see above) the non CO2-related climate impact from burning jetfuel in the atmosphere (Radiative Forcing Index, RFI) is put on top with dark blue and with a uncertainty scale (thin line). The dark blue bar is representing a RFI of 1,7 on the short range (500 km) on basis of the share of fuel used for flying. The RFI for longer ranges (1000 km) is set to 1,8. (In study A short haul flights are set to 1,0, long distance to 1,7 with an average of 1,23).

That is very strange figures. The overall European recommendation (December 2020) is RFI = 3,0 by Lee et al and endorsed by the EASA. 3,0 is an average. A German study from 2019 goes into details in relation to length of the journey what we need to do. It is J.D. Scheelhaase in Journal of Air Transport Management 75 (2019) pages 68-74 and in this study the RFI of 1,7 is justified for the short distances, but on 1000 km the RFI is rather 3,0 due to the travel in high altitudes.

So let us stick to RFI respectively 1,7 and 3,0 for the two flying distances in study B.

How are occupancy rates calculated?

Again we are facing a strange weakness within the EEA report.

Occupancy rates is in figure 5.4 set to

  • Aviation: 80%
  • Passenger car: 1 passenger (study A 1,6)
  • Highspeed train: 66% (study A it is calculated from average no. in all European train – so a different method)
  • Intercity train: 36%

The two last figures are based in Table A1.7 (page 84). “High speed: based on an EU average occupancy rate of 66 % (estimated based on UIC (2013), Ortega (2013), EEA (2016b), Doomernik (2014), Dinu (2016) and Italo (2016). Intercity: based on average occupancy rate of 36 % (estimated based on CE Delft (2014) and Hayashi et al. (2015).” So the average covers all rail routes in Europe.

How about aviation in study B? It is made from the 20 selected routes. Table A1.2 (page 80). The average here is 76,4, for some reasons it is made to 80%. But the problem is that these routes are selected as the most used routes in Europe, so they cannot at all be representative for all routes in Europe. A more likely estimate is a rate of 60%, but it should be verified!

With cars it is not likely that the average occupancy rate is 1,0 person per car on distances 500-1000 km in Europe. EEA is also mentioning 1,5, as they used in 2014.

Let us stick to these occupance rates: Aviation: 60%, passenger car: 1,5 passengers, highspeed train: 66% and intercity train: 36%.

Night trains in study B

Night trains are mentioned at page 66: “The same applies for the (re-)introduction of night trains, which could offer a strategy to deal with longer rail travel times.”  And on page 68: “Another strategy to deal with longer rail travel times for longer distances (e.g. between 800 and 1 200 km) is an increased use of night trains. The time and money cost of travel is then compensated for by saving the cost of hotel accommodation.”


The two EEA reports does not bring any new facts to the issue of “level playing field”. What could be a very precise figure to bring to daylight is this one:

The average price a transport operator pays per energy unit (for instance kilowatt-hour) to fuel an airplane in Europe and abroad (A1 jet fuel), compared with the price to pay for electricity to an electric train in Europe.

By not providing such a number, it is not possible to have a real picture of the unfair situation. The ETS is not convincing, and will not alone bring level playing field to the transport sector.

The construction of infrastructure

A cradle to grave approach is not used in the studies and neither the impacts from constructions are. It is mentioned, that such figures could be nice to have, but data are not available. But one place constructions are mentioned:

“For new investment in rail to be environmentally beneficial, the environmental impacts from the construction of infrastructure must be compensated for by the reduced environmental impacts made possible by the opening of the new rail link.” (page 19) This is an essential point, when arguing for rail investments, that they are climate-wise sound and justified. But no-where in the EEA report is mentioned new constructions (or extentions) of airports or construction of new motorways. Why not? Can we understand that EEA of course will ague against all extentions of infrastructure related to environmental harming means of transport? It would suit EEA to go open and call for a stop to all investments that will lead to environmental damage.

The real figure of climate impact based on study B

This is the re-estimated figure 5.4 with the climate impact in grams CO2e, as it should be, based upon the arguments mentioned above:

Figure 3
  • Average fossil car: 111 grams CO2e per passenger kilometer
  • Electric car: 26 grams CO2e
  • High speed train: 19 grams CO2e
  • IC electric train: 23 grams CO2e
  • A320 on a 500 km journey: 253 grams CO2e
  • A320 on a 1000 km journey: 343 grams CO2e

So per kilometer journey on European distances the rail journey is around 15 times more climate friendly than aviation.

What difference does it make – as long as trains er more eco-friendly than planes?

Does it make any significant difference if trains are 3, 8 or 15 times more eco-friendly than planes? Yes it does. The margin will provide room for investments and subsidies all the time as long as market prices are not reflecting the real ecological footprint. With a factor 15 more climate friendly railways, it makes a sound economy to engage in large infrastructure investments and big get-trains-on-the-tracks subsidies to follow the green climate decisions.

This article is made by Poul Kattler, Back-on-Track, in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is subject to revision according to dialogue with EEA and contributions here below:

Official start of the European Year of Rail – triggering a rail renaissance for Europe


Dear Minister Pedro Nuno Santos (Portugal), Dear Commissioner Adina Vălean,

The European Year of Rail could not have come at a more pivotal time. Passenger numbers are growing and public enthusiasm is surging, but rail services are still only patchy at best. With the right political and financial support, the European Year of Rail 2021 could trigger a climate-friendly train travel renaissance, with a truly connected European rail network that leaves no one behind.

Tackling the European Union’s contribution to climate breakdown will be impossible without a shift from air and road transport to rail. Nonetheless, while the share of rail passengers in EU transport has only slightly increased since 2007, air transport has grown dramatically and cars continue to make up over 70% of passenger transport. Despite its environmental benefits, rail is particularly underused in international travel: cross-border traffic accounts for less than 8% of rail passenger traffic. Boosting rail numbers will be instrumental for a green and just pandemic recovery.

We urge you to ensure the EU takes forward these five major steps, starting in 2021, rapidly moving towards a true European railway system that is a model for the world: 

  • Governments should identify at least 30 underexploited international routes with high potential, and begin plans to start new day-time and night trains running from end 2021. These plans should include seed funding, or cross-border Public Service Obligations, to guarantee services which are currently not financially viable, and the support of the European Commission. Most EU capitals are not connected via direct rail services. This is as true for cities in neighbouring countries, as it is for cities further apart or in peripheral regions. 
  • Governments and the EU should set up a funding programme to build a European pool of compatible rolling stock of international day-time trains and night trains. The cost of compatible rolling stock and the lack of supply because of chronic underinvestment are slowing down the renaissance of night trains in Europe, and the creation of sustainable and high quality jobs.
  • Governments and the EU should significantly increase investments in the upgrade and modernisation of existing railways, thus removing bottlenecks and improving cross-border regional rail. Neither existing national plans, nor the EU’s new transport budget will be sufficient to meet these goals.
  • The EU should create a legal framework to make travelling by train cheaper than flying (on comparable journeys). The EU should introduce a kerosene tax and cut unfair airport subsidies, and governments should reduce rail track access charges. The EU and Governments should also phase out domestic and cross-border short-haul flights where there is a convenient night train or a day-time connection.
  • The EU and governments should ensure rail operators guarantee all passenger needs and rights, from specific assistance to low income families and people with reduced mobility, to a common Europe-wide booking system for rail tickets, and uninterrupted passenger rights on international trips. 

Funding and other measures to support a shift from air and road to rail, and to increase cross-border rail, should be at the heart of national recovery and resilience plans. And the European Commission should monitor these plans to ensure they are. 

We believe the people of Europe deserve a Europe-wide railway system that meets their needs, while boosting a shift from air and road to rail. The EU should seize this opportunity to start building the foundations of a European body with a responsibility to oversee and coordinate international rail, starting with the creation of a European timetable and the allocation of tracks to operators.

To help trigger a rail renaissance in Europe, we call on you to support the measures listed above in the Council of the EU and in the preparation of the European Commission’s forthcoming action plan on cross border and long distance rail.

Without concerted and resolute political action, the European Year of Rail will do little to revive the fortunes of trains in Europe, just at the time when we need them most. After years of neglect, it is time to invest in an industry with a bright future. 

We remain available to discuss these matters further, at your earliest convenience. 

Yours sincerely, 

Magda Stoczkiewicz

Programme Director, Greenpeace European Unit

Also on behalf of:

Back on Track, the European network to promote cross border night trains
eco union
Instytut Spraw Obywatelskich
Natuur & Milieu
Réseau Action Climat

>> See the letter as pdf

Hop on the train: A Rail Renaissance for Europe

This is how a new publication from Germanwatch get started. It is giving a short and clear analysis, and shows good overall directions. Let us quote from the introduction:

While many actors are praising railways, the European rail systemis currently not in the best shape to take a central role in transport systems. In almost all EU member states, the importance of rail has declined over the last decades due to a heavy focus on road and aviation. Rail accounts for only 8% of passenger transport, and international rail services in particular are not sufficiently developed. Of the 365 cross-border rail links that once existed, 149 were non-operational in 2018, and today not even all European capital cities are linked by direct rail services. The rail system in the EU is currently not more than a patchwork of national systems, with no comprehensive European strategy.
In the European Year of Rail 2021, the Eu and national governments need to seize the opportunity to boost European rail services. This is an excellent moment for initiating a rail renaissance for the following reasons:

(1) Covid-19 has reshuffled transport systems and travelling habits;

(2) with the European Green Deal, the Eu economy is on the brink of a new era; and

(3) there is strong political support for rail from actors across the board.

The options for improving international rail are right in front of us on a silver platter. EU institutions and players tend to focus on infrastructure development, but this is expensive and time consuming. Also, rail infrastructure projects are often not matched with measures to simultaneously improve service quality to make efficient use of the new infrastructure. There are low-hanging fruits available to the EU which could boost international rail services immediately, without the need for large scale investments.

The publication focusses on three areas:

  • A European network: launch direct international services on European arteries
  • Easy booking: Make rail data sharing mandatory
  • Smart spending: Use EU money to improve rail infrastructure capacity and connectivity

>> Read the publication here

European sleeper

The Netherlands has got a new railway company: European Sleeper. The new railway company promises to introduce a night train from the Netherlands and Belgium from April 2022 that will run several times a week. If the plans goes ahead, it will be the first time since Lovers Rail (1996-1999) that a private railway company has entered the Dutch market. The new company does not want to say what the intended final destination is, it is expected to be announced in April.

Final destination
“We are talking with a renowned foreign open access railway company as a potential partner for the operation. As soon as these consultations enter the next phase, we can announce the final destination”, says co-initiator Elmer van Buuren. Together with Chris Engelsman, he is the driving force behind the initiative.

What Van Buuren already wants to reveal is that it is a popular destination for city trips, holidays and business trips and that a night train also ran there in the past. This is a destination that has been designated as a potential final destination by the Kennisinstituut voor Mobiliteitsbeleid (KiM). “Our own market research also shows that there is sufficient potential for a night train to this destination,” says Van Buuren.

European Sleeper will not compete with existing night train initiatives. Van Buuren: “It will really be an addition to the existing train network, not a land grab.” In concrete terms, this means, according to, that Copenhagen, Prague, Warsaw or Milan should be the final destination of the new sleeper train. However, the initiators do not want to confirm this. Zurich, Munich and Vienna are also seen by KiM as potential final destinations, but ÖBB and NS are already aiming for that. Turin, which is also mentioned in the report, has not been connected to the night train network from the Netherlands in recent history.

>> Read the whole story in or

>> Go directly to the brand new homepage of the European sleeper

Petition: Link the Iberian Peninsula and Central Europe with Night Trains

We ask the Spanish, French, and Portuguese governments (the latter of which is now taking presidency of the Council of the EU, in the first half of 2021 – The European Year of the Rail) to consider not only resuming the recently stopped Portugal-France night train connection, but also extending it to a major train hub in europe, such as Paris (or potentially Brussels), instead of reaching just Hendaye in the French-Spanish border.

We urge the Spanish and Portuguese governments to order their national rail companies to join the declaration of December 8th made by SNCF, DB, ÖBB and SBB in favor of building a new European night train network. 

Additionally, we urge the Spanish government to study new night train links between the Iberian Peninsula and centre/east Europe, such as Barcelona-Frankfurt-Berlin and Barcelona-Milan-Rome.

This is the appeal which Back-on-Track raises with a large petition on As it is said:

In March 2020, the last night trains ran the Lisbon-Madrid-Hendaye route, connecting the portuguese capital to the spanish one, and the french border. In May, Renfe announced the end of those connections. This policy goes against the current trend in Europe, where night trains are actually experiencing a revival, scoring new planned connections such as Zurich – Amsterdam, Vienna – Munich – Paris, Berlin – Brussels, Berlin – Paris being set up.

Choose your preferred language and sign the petition here (they are all pooled together):

EnglishPortugueseSpanish CatalanFrench – German

France to redevelop sleeper trains

The French transport minister wants «10 overnight lines by 2030»

The French transport minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, onboard a couchette coach in renovation – Picture: SNCF

4After having been neglected for a long time, French overnight trains now seem ready to take a new start. In France, only two domestic night trains remain today (Paris-Briançon and Paris-Rodez/Toulouse-Latour-de-Carol/Portbou), but the French government is preparing a stategy to redevelop new night trains in the coming years.

 After having axed many overnight connections these last years, this U-turn is motivated by the new public awareness about the climate impact of aviation (with the « flight shame » movement), the growing demand for low-carbon alternatives, and is inspired by the success of the new international night trains network (« Nightjet ») developped by the Austrian national company ÖBB, with connections all the way to Hamburg, Brussels and Rome. The pandemic also stresses the need to better equilibrate the transport offer in favor of smaller cities and rural areas, where more and more people wish to live. Because the French high-speed network is very centered on Paris, there is a lack of direct transverse overnight connections between remote regions (for example, the fastest train trip from Bordeaux to Nice is about 9 hours, which would be perfect for a night sleep).

First of all, the rolling stock for the remaining 2 lines existing today is being completely refurbished, to offer modern confort with wi-fi, more comfortable couchettes and better noise insulation. 44 million € are invested to renew 71 coaches, with couchettes and reclining seats. It was high time, since the rolling stock is about 40 years old and looks quite decrepit, although it is still very appreciated by regular users. But on the long term, it will be necessary to order the construction of brand-new trains because, even renovated, these couchette coaches probably won’t last much later than 2030.

In 2020, everything accelerated, with the French president Emmanuel Macron announcing his intention to « redevelop night trains », as part of the economic recovery plan. The return of the night trains Paris-Nice and Paris-Tarbes-Irun was announced, with 100 million € dedicated to these two new lines. 22 more old SNCF couchette coaches will be renovated, and more comfortable sleeper coaches might be rented from the Austrians or the Russians, in order to offer a comfort level in line with the new modern European standards, as proposed in the Nightjet, Thello, or Caledonian Sleeper trains. Covid permitting, the Paris-Nice connection is planned to start in April 2021, while Paris-Tarbes-Irun is programmed for December 2021.

The Paris-Nice will be a branch added to Paris-Briançon (as was the cas until 2017), while the Paris-Tarbes train will likely be a new branch of the line from Paris to Toulouse (but things are not settled yet about this line). For the moment, it is not sure whether the line Paris-Tarbes will continue to Irun, this may be the case only during the high summer season.

In december 2020, some more good news came from a joint statement of Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France, announcing an extension of the Austrian Nightjet network in the coming years. A new Paris-Munich-Vienna is due for December 2021, with Paris-Berlin following 2 years later, and Zurich-Perpignan-Barcelona at the end of 2024.

But the revival of French night trains won’t stop here : following an important mobilization of citizens, environmental associations and politicians during the debates of a transport law in 2019, the government accepted to lauch a study of possible new overnight connections. This study is about to be published soon, and some first elements were revealed last week : the transport minister wishes to have « 10 overnight trains by 2030 » (probably including the 2 existing lines, as well as Paris-Nice, Paris-Tarbes-Irun, Paris-Vienna and Paris-Berlin, meaning that about 4 more lines are to come).

The detailed routes of these possible new connections are not yet fixed, but the study has identified 4 interesting corridors : Bordeaux-Marseille, Tours-Lyon, Dijon-Marseille, and Paris-Toulouse. Along each corridor, a certain number of branches may be gathered to form a single train, meaning for example that on the corridor Dijon-Marseille, there could be a train with a branch from Metz and Strasbourg, an other from Lille, and the train could split in the South to serve Nice and Perpignan. The train Bordeaux-Marseille will very likely continue to Nice, the train Tours-Lyon will likely start somewhere in Brittany, Brest, Nantes or Quimper, and may head to Geneva or to the French ski resorts. Along the Paris-Toulouse line (where a night train already exists), new branches could be added to serve other destinations.

To operate these new night trains, new rolling stock will probably be necessary, and track renovations are planned in the coming years on some portions. Therefore, the time horizon for these new lines is probably between 2025 and 2030, hence the proclaimed ambition to have « 10 night trains by 2030 ». Financing and calendar are now being discussed between the different ministers, so the level of ambition is not yet completely decided.

The French activists group « Oui au train de nuit » (Yes to the night trains) welcomes this new development, which will be very positive for the climate and for the mobility between remote regions. But more propositions are expected concerning international trains, which are also supposed to be tackled by the study of the governement : connexions to Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Prague and Copenhagen for example are missing for the moment. Also, some important transverse corridors have been neglected, for example between Brittany (Rennes, Nantes, Quimper) and the South-West (Bordeaux, Toulouse, Perpignan, Hendaye), or between the South-West, Lyon and Geneva. The activists group also pushes for more rural regions like the center mountaineous region of « Auvergne » not to be forgotten : there, cities like Aurillac or Millau are very isolated and deserve at least an overnight connection to Paris.

Sleeper train network suggested by “Oui au train de nuit” for 2030, with 15 national lines and 15 european lines

To show the potential for night trains to link the French regions between them and to connect them to Europe, « Oui au train de nuit » proposes a vision for 2030 with 15 domestic overnight lines (some of them slightly crossing the borders, for example to Geneva or Brussels), and 15 international lines, going all the way to Lisbon, Malmö or Budapest. The launch of this network by 2030 would represent an investment of about 1.5 billion €. For these lines, a possible timetable has been designed, and a study estimated that this network could attract more than 10 million passengers per year, mostly shifted from planes and cars, thus representing an important saving of CO2. The aim in the coming months is to ask the regions to take position on these propositions, so that night trains become an important topic in the debate for the regional elections, planned in June 2021. Stay tuned ! More informations on

European Year of Rail to set substantial ambitions

Back on Track’s demands for 2021 – the European Year of Rail

The European Union has declared 2021 to be the European Year of Rail! We as Back on Track, the European network to promote cross border night trains, strongly support this initiative. Accelerating climate change, unsustainable travel patterns and years of railway negligence and cutbacks require immediate action.

– Back on Track is during 2021 expecting a statement of the governments of each Member country of the European Union, in which way they will support night trains and cross-border day trains, also taking into account neighboring countries outside the EU. 

– Back on Track demands, both from the EU and from each member state, a statement on a binding goal for the share of train/road/planes passenger transport in 2030, 2040 and 2050.

– Back on Track is demanding a common booking platform.

– Back on Track is glad the revised passenger rights regulation has been put forward, but we call for significant improvements with regards to through-ticketing for international journeys.

– Back on Track is urging the EU commission to develop mechanisms to provide a good quality rolling stock pool, accessible for companies providing night train services.

We are looking forward to a good cooperation of railway companies in all Member states of the European Union, as well as neighboring countries, for developing night train and cross-border services.

How the 2021 European Year of Rail can support the European Green Deal

Germanwatch together with the Civil Affairs Institute, ProRail, France Nature Environment, eco-union, Ecodes and Transport&Environment has published a new paper on the challenges of the European Rail system and what has to be done in order to improve it – especially during the Year of Rail.

The 28 pages report is giving a good picture of the situation in Europe, and gives a good priority of the work ahead. Let us quote, and you will find the link to the report below.

While many actors are praising railways, the European rail system is currently not in the best shape to take a central role in transport systems. In almost all EU member states, the importance of rail has declined over the last decades due to a heavy focus on road and aviation. Rail accounts for only 8% of passenger transport, and international rail services in particular are not sufficiently developed. Of the 365 cross-border rail links that once existed, 149 were non-operational in 2018, and today not even all European capital cities are linked by direct rail services. The rail system in the EU is currently not more than a patchwork of national systems, with no comprehensive European strategy.

In the European Year of Rail 2021, the EU and national governments need to seize the opportunity to boost European rail services. This is an excellent moment for initiating a rail renaissance for the following reasons: (1) Covid-19 has reshuffled transport systems and travelling habits; (2) with the European Green Deal, the EU economy is on the brink of a new era; and (3) there is strong political support for rail from actors across the board.

The options for improving international rail are right in front of us on a silver platter. EU institutions and players tend to focus on infrastructure development, but this is expensive and time consuming. Also, rail infrastructure projects are often not matched with measures to simultaneously improve service quality to make efficient use of the new infrastructure. There are low-hanging fruits available to the EU which could boost international rail services immediately, without the need for large scale investments. (…)

Currently, the main obstacles to international services are according to the report:

  • National perspective: incumbent operators focus on their national market (especially on lucrative main routes) and often lack an international vision and experience (e.g. market potential, administrative). Trains stop at ‘at every haystack’, which might make sense from a national perspective, but leads to additional travel times for international services.
  • Administrative hurdles make international services less attractive for operators. For example: they need to apply for track capacity with various infrastructure managers; drivers are required to speak several languages; and rolling stock needs to be designed and licensed for different national electricity, signalling and safety systems. (…)

Vision: Agree on a comprehensive network of European day and night trains, with trains crossing external EU borders into the neighbourhood (especially to the UK, Western Balkans, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia).

>> Find the report here

EU Report 2021 about night trains

After request from the EU-Parliament in 2020 DG MOVE announced for consultancies, to make the actual work.

Main contractor is Steer Davies and Gleeve Ltd (see announcement)

Sub contractor is a Berlin based company, the name cannot be released right now.

The contract was signed in December. In the beginning of January there was a kick-off meeting, that gave input to some clarifications.

STEER is in January 2021 preparing a revised overview of the work. In February they will start to talk with stakeholders on all levels, incl. passenger representatives.

Early September DG MOVE and STEER will present results on a conference, maybe on-line? Short time to integration of learnings from the public consultation and the report will be final by mid-September.