Energising Europe’s railways

Posted: 4 February 2016 | Simon Fletcher, UIC’s Coordinator Europe | No comments yet

As we turn the page from 2015 to the chapter headed 2016, it is the moment to focus on what this year is likely to bring forth. The key words for 2016 are energy, security, digitalisation and innovation. These are of course only some of the components of the railway system, but they are all key to the efficiency of the railway system and the attractiveness of rail to the customer. But managing them is not without its challenges!

Europe’s railway network is the recognised transport backbone. It is vital for economic growth, to create jobs, to facilitate social development and mobility. Every year it enables millions of people to travel for work and leisure and transports millions of tonnes of freight.

The challenge for rail is to focus on generating a real enthusiasm for rail, attract the customers and as a result strengthen rail’s market position. Passenger numbers are growing and the length of electrified railway has doubled over the past couple of decades, but more is possible.

There is much anticipation around the long-awaited innovation programme called Shift2Rail. The work will start this year and it will be incumbent on the railway community at large to ensure that what is developed and delivered within this multi-million Euro programme will benefit rail stakeholders in the widest possible sense.

Of course there is a need for new technology to support a competitive rail system, but there is also the need to focus on a range of other issues – not all of which the Shift2Rail programme will be able to deliver.

The rail operating community needs to harness its collective energy and encourage investment in the railway of tomorrow, investment that will deliver real benefits for passengers and freight through more capacity and faster and more reliable journeys. This will however mean the need for a holistic approach to identifying and managing projects at a European level – something that will require some really innovative thinking…

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