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Hop on the train: A Rail Renaissance for Europe

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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

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