Commissioner supports modernising, expanding EU railways

Elvis Ekane Ngalle • 2 April 2021

European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reform Elisa Ferreira has expressed her support for expanding railways in the European Union, calling for investment in modernisation and regional connections.

Ferreira, who was speaking on Monday (29 March) at the closing session of the conference to launch the European Year of Rail Transport 2021 organised by Portugual’s EU presidency, said she was convinced of the critical importance of rail for the European economy and for Europe’s green deal, underlining the fact that it is the safest mode of transport and, most importantly, is sustainable.

She assured European governments that they have her “full support to expand the use of rail, both for passengers and freight”, and it is in this dimension that Europe faces a real challenge.

“Our data show that rail only accounts for 10% of passenger transport in Europe, compared to 80% for road. It is quite dramatic,” she said, adding that the figures for freight are not much better, where rail represents 18% of freight transport, contrasting with 75% on the roads.

However, according to the Commissioner, increasing the use of rail in both cases could “significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions and significantly increase the quality of life, more comfort and more quality, less congestion and frustration”.

She recalled that the EU has already invested in railways in recent years, expecting by 2023 about 580,000 kilometres of new railway lines to be built, as well as almost 6,000 kilometres of reconstruction of existing railway lines.

According to Ferreira, there are three principles that should guide investment in railways, namely the modernisation of railway infrastructure, as well as investment in easily accessible and user-friendly railways, ensuring accessibility for all citizens, especially those with reduced mobility.

“It is still difficult in Europe to buy tickets for cross-border travel. This often requires two tickets from two different sources. This is not acceptable. Price and timetables are rarely in harmony,” she said, urging the need for “better intermobility, where passengers can transit to trains, airports and metros with parking facilities nearby”.

Last but not least, she called for investment in regional connections, considering that “good connections are vital for regional development”.

“We are willing to invest in this interoperability through cohesion programmes. We need to ensure that the main European lines are connected to regional lines, so that no region, no country, is left behind”.

“Now, more than ever, it is time to expand the use of rail. Now is the time to ensure that all regions have modern infrastructure and strong connecting networks. Now is the time for smarter, more accessible, and more user-focused services. Now is the perfect time for the European Year of Railways,” she concluded.

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]