Railway Express: A Strong Rail Network for European Mobility

By Wasay Rashid

Industry Trends

At the annual European Railway Award, stakeholders made a case for a strong rail network for European mobility as the most energy efficient transport.

The European Railway Award is a prestigious annual gathering of top EU transport policymakers and all relevant stakeholders of the rail sector. It recognizes and celebrates the contributions made for the rail sector by accomplished individuals. This year’s ceremony was a joint venture of the community of European railway and infrastructure companies (CER) and the Association of the European rail industry (UNIFE). More than 500 guests from all over Europe included politicians, transport stakeholders, media, association representatives and analysts like me. The European Railway Award is an event that should not be overlooked in the rail segment, as it promotes a strong network of all parties involved. It is certainly an influential and compelling platform to connect with leaders from the industry and other relevant individuals.

A strong rail network for European mobility

The event commenced with a round table discussion on ‘A strong rail network for European mobility’. Highlighting on the fact that rail is the most energy efficient transport, the panel stressed upon the necessity to reduce carbon emissions by promoting rail transportation right now and not in some undetermined future. European mobility was also discussed in the context of safety and quality of travel. “The rail system is the safest [mode of transportation], and quality of travel is much higher, as, for example, people can work while they are travelling,” says Sabrina Soussan, UNIFE Chair and CEO of Siemens Mobility. She explained that her company goes with mobility as a service: “The first mile to the last mile should be all connected”. Interconnectivity requires collaboration, a good example is a great initiative such as shift2rail, a European rail initiative carried out under the EU’s Horizon 2020 initiative to develop the necessary technology to complete the Single European Railway Area (SERA).

The Backbone of Rail Digitalization

Staying ahead of the game is necessary, as disruptive technologies demand a transition towards the digitalization of rail. “ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) will be the backbone of the digitalization of rail, but as of now it is too slow, and we need to speed it up. We need to refurbish our trains and tracks through an increase of the financing for our European rail network” says Matthias Ruete, European ERTMS Coordinator. He advocates rail freight corridors to facilitate trade and described how these corridors will allow us to identify the bottlenecks across our rail networks. For example, a Eurasian rail corridor offers benefits and opportunities for freight stakeholders across the continents.

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The European Railway Award 2019

The 2019 European Railway Award was presented to Catherine Trautmann, the coordinator of the TEN-T North Sea-Baltic rail corridor, for her enduring support of rail transport, especially her long-lasting commitment to the development of the rail network across Europe under the EU framework of the TEN-T (Trans-European Transport Network) program. Part of the award is a donation of 10,000 euros that goes to a good cause of the laureate’s choice. Catherine choose to give her prize money to the European Disability Forum, an NGO that defends the interest of 80 million Europeans with disabilities.

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