Trains at the Stuttgart Station

Everyone, come on board 2021 – this is the European Year of Rail

Everyone, come on board 2021 – this is the European Year of Rail

EU institutions are shining the spotlight on one of the most sustainable mobility options

It may seem ironic that the oldest engine-powered transportation mode is also looked up to as the future of mobility in Europe. If you are still wondering - we are talking about trains.

We are already living in the European Year of Rail, an initiative by the European Commission also endorsed by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. And there are plenty of good reasons why this should be so and why we should rethink our relationship with trains – so familiar yet also full of unexplored potential.

The Commission has planned a full year of events and initiatives that will promote train travel and educate the general public about the grand societal benefits that will come as a result of ditching the tires and wings for the railway tracks.

Rail transport will play a central role in achieving climate neutrality by 2050

It is true that trains have existed for more than 200 years now but during that long stretch, they have shown a remarkable capacity for innovation and adaptability while always remaining valuable, efficient and useful. From steam to diesel to electricity to high-speed magnetic levitation the engineering history of railway travel has gone hand in hand with human and urban development, never falling behind.

“Our future mobility needs to be sustainable, safe, comfortable and affordable. Rail offers all of that and much more! The European Year of Rail gives us the opportunity to re-discover this mode of transport. Through a variety of actions, we will use this occasion to help rail realise its full potential. I invite all of you to be part of the European Year of Rail,” said Adina Vălean, European Commissioner for Transport.

A simple look at the numbers will show how important trains are for Europe and yet how much-hidden potential they hold for the green development of the continent. It has been estimated that 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the transport sector, yet only 0.5% are attributable to railways! And given that the European Green Deal calls for 90% reduction in transport emissions that means that the only truly viable option is betting on sharply increasing the availability, usage and functionality of trains.

Currently, only 7% of passengers and 11% of goods travel by rail. To that end, the European Commission has adopted the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy in December 2020, which is an action plan for boosting the popularity of railway travel. Among the proposed steps are: better connectivity of rail to other modes of travel, the realization of the Single European Railway Area (seamless cross border train travel complete with ticketing and digital information and planning), as well as innovation into making high-speed trains suited to carry cargo.

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