Re: Shifting international passenger trips to rail: Delivering on the European Year of Rail 2021 

Dear Transport Ministers,

As a transport minister, you will soon be joining your counterparts from across Europe at an EU Transport Council on 3 June to discuss the future of rail travel. The European Year of Rail 2021 is a unique opportunity for the EU and national governments to boost international passenger rail in Europe. 

The European Environment Agency has described rail as the most sustainable mode of motorised passenger transport. We call on you to make trains the obvious travel choice for people in Europe: Europe needs an attractive and dense network of international long-distance train services, including frequent day-time services as well as night trains that cover larger distances. 

Polling shows that people in Europe are willing to shift from air to rail – even for international travel. It’s your responsibility to make change happen. EU citizens demand attractive connections, convenient travel times, fair prices, easy booking options and protected passenger rights. This requires fair market conditions for rail compared to airlines and road travel. 

In its interim report, the International Passenger Rail platform identifies many challenges in customer experience and digitalisation, services, infrastructure and the regulatory framework. Yet, we see important gaps (e.g. no mention of a level playing field across different modes of transport) and no concrete response. 

To make the European Year of Rail a success, European governments should discuss and endorse the following measures at the Transport Council meeting: 

1) Commit to at least 30 new Europe Express lines and night trains between 2021 and 2025, and short-term service improvements, towards a European timetable 

2) Launch a funding programme for interoperable rolling stock and sleeping carriers 

3) Make sharing of real-time and ticketing data mandatory for rail operators 

4) Reduce track access charges for international trains and phase-out flight subsidies and short-haul flights 

5) Increase public investment in closing infrastructure gaps and modernising existing infrastructure 

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. 

Yours sincerely, 

36 environmental groups, among others

>> See the whole letter including five annexes and signatures

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