Connecting Europe Express Reaches End of 20,000 Kilometre Journey
A closing event in Paris presented the initial conclusions drawn from the unique train journey. Firstly, for rail to unleash its potential, a true cross-border, modern, high-quality rail infrastructure is a basic requirement. There is a clear need for joint action to complete the core Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) by 2030 and the comprehensive network by 2050, and the European Commission will propose changes to the TEN-T regulation later this year.
On 16 September, a seven billion euro (8.09bn USD) call for proposals under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) was launched for projects targeting new, upgraded and improved European transport infrastructure. The EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility can support the modernisation and interoperability of rail infrastructure, plus key infrastructure project such as the Lyon-Turin lines, the Brenner Base Tunnel and Rail Baltica. Secondly, existing infrastructure must be better managed and its capacity improved.
Digitalisation can help. For example, deploying the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) will increase capacity, safety, reliability and punctuality. Research and innovation will also unlock more capacity, and the new Europe’s Rail partnership will build on the successful work of Shift2Rail.
Thirdly, greater pan-European coordination and common requirements are needed and the Single European Rail Area must be enhanced. For example, Europe’s train drivers should be able to accompany their trains across borders, just as pilots and truck lorry drivers can. In addition, the 4th railway package must be transposed quickly to eliminate other remaining obstacles created by national rules and establish an open and competitive European market for rail – technically, operationally and commercially.
Fourth and finally, rail needs to become more attractive to encourage more people and companies to choose rail. Improving ticketing and options for planning travel across transport modes would help, as would lowering the costs of rail travel in comparison to the alternatives. A
Against this backdrop, the European Commission will present an action plan to boost long-distance cross-border passenger rail services in December.
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