Rail Forum Europe welcomes the progress on the SHIFT2RAIL initiative and calls for immediate action

Posted: 20 February 2013 | | No comments yet

The European rail sector is ready to commit to major step changes…

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The European rail sector is ready to commit to major step changes in order to achieve the objectives set out in the Transport White Paper and in the Europe 2020 strategy. In order to make this reality, railway stakeholders, including suppliers, operators, infrastructure managers, rail clusters and academia and research institutes are teaming up in the SHIFT2RAIL proposal for a flagship Joint Technology Initiative under Horizon 2020. Broad support for the proposal was expressed at a Rail Forum Europe dinner on “SHIFT2RAIL, the rail JTI – progress and next steps” held on 18 February in the European Parliament in Brussels and sponsored by four co-signatories of the SHIFT2RAIL Memorandum of Understanding: Alstom, Ansaldo, Bombardier and Talgo.

Introducing the event, Brian Simpson, Chairman of the EP’s Transport Committee and Rail Forum Europe President, reminded those present that Rail Forum Europe had already discussed this initiative in November 2011, and that “it is now time to act in order to deliver concrete results”.

Presenting the status of the proposal, Henri Poupart-Lafarge, President of Alstom Transport and Chairman of UNIFE, welcomed the Commission’s reference to SHIFT2RAIL in the recently published Communication on the 4th Railway Package and highlighted the role of rail in meeting the EU climate and transport objectives. He made it clear the European rail sector needs to implement the SHIFT2RAIL initiative as European suppliers are facing fierce competition with Asian companies.

He presented the targets of the SHIFT2RAIL proposal, such as increase in capacity by up to 100%, increase of reliability by up to 50% and reduction of life cycle costs by up to 50%. “SHIFT2RAIL will ensure that the EU industry maintains its worldwide leadership” he added.

Finally, he called for the support of the European Commission, European Parliament and Member States. “The consortium is ready to prepare the Joint Undertaking with the Commission and start operations as early as 2014” he concluded.

Manuela Soares, DG RTD Director responsible for Transport, highlighted that one of the major objectives of Horizon 2020 is to keep the European industry ahead at global level by increasing its competitiveness.

The European Commission has proposed to increase the total budget of Horizon 2020 as well as to increase the budget dedicated to transport research.

“We highly appreciate the work put in SHIFT2RAIL and welcome the commitment of the industry. Nevertheless, our services having assessed the proposal have provided a number of key observations on the need to strengthen the scope (in terms of ambition and making a real step change for the whole rail sector). We want to work with the industry in the coming months to reach a consensus on this initiative, its content and the way to implement it” she said.

Jean-Eric Paquet, DG MOVE Director for European Mobility Network, stated that “an industrial initiative under the research programme is long overdue in rail and SHIFT2RAIL comes at the right time along with the recent publication of the 4th Railway Package”.

He highlighted that we are currently moving from 25 national railway systems into a Single European railway system.

The European Commission is proud of the world leadership of the European rail industry. However, this leadership has already eroded since the start of work on SHIFT²RAIL. This means that immediate action is needed.

“Now it is time to take action and carry out this European initiative industrially led” he concluded.

Michael Cramer, Member of the EP’s Transport Committee and Rail Forum Europe Board Member highlighted the current inequalities in the financing of different transport modes. “Although rail is the greenest mode of transport, the current competition situation burdens the rail sector and favours road and air traffic” he said.

Railway stakeholders expressed their support for the SHIFT2RAIL initiative. Alberto Mazzola (Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane) said: “We are very positive on this initiative and we are working to join it. As operators we will of course benefit from innovation”. Luc Aliadière (French Federation of the Rail Manufacturers – FIF) expressed his full support for the initiative, as did Bertrand de Lacombe of the Permanent Representation of France to the EU.

Andy Doherty (Network Rail) added: “SHIFT²RAIL will radically improve the railway system through concrete step changes, for the benefit of the customers which is what Network Rail is committed to”. Marcel Verslype (Executive Director of the European Railway Agency) concluded: “SHIFT²RAIL can be an excellent tool to improve the existing framework and to develop the future railway system”.

Rail Forum Europe will hold its next dinner event on 10 April 2013 in Brussels. On this occasion, the MEPs will address the 4th Railway Package.