European Year of Rail in pursuit of more and better European train connections
The European Year of Rail commenced on 29 March 2021. Even though the Covid-19 crisis is limiting our travel opportunities, this year the European Union is drawing attention to the importance of good European train connections. The goal is to boost passenger and freight rail transport across Europe after the pandemic, in order to thus foster achievement of the climate targets.
Dutch State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven (Infrastructure and Water Management): ‘Travelling by train is sustainable and comfortable. It is important for us to join forces on a European scale, in the purview of facilitating international train travel for travellers. For every destination up to a distance of 700 kilometres, the train should constitute an affordable and green alternative. Over the past four years, we have made significant strides in this respect: we have a direct train connection to London, the night train to Vienna is ready to go, and the intercity train to Berlin will take half an hour less with effect from 2024. Nonetheless, it is important that we realise more improvements.’
Facilitating the purchase of tickets
Along with Norway and Switzerland, twenty-five EU member states have united in the Platform on International Rail Passenger Transport. At the start of the European Year of Rail, they have produced several recommendations to promote international train travel. Today, State Secretary Stientje van Veldhoven (Infrastructure and Water Management) is presenting these recommendations during the European digital kick-off of the Year of Rail.
For example, booking international train journeys online must become easier. Furthermore, it is important for timetables in member states to be better aligned and for railway tracks to provide sufficient room for international train connections. The German Trans Europe Express 2.0 initiative, an international rail network intended to connect cities in Europe by a combination of high-speed trains and night trains, could play a significant part in this respect. As regards the Netherlands, this initiative is exploring more efficient connections to Berlin, Frankfurt, Brussels, Paris, Barcelona, London, and Copenhagen.
In addition, the member states have welcomed the European Commission’s proposal to launch fifteen pilot projects involving new and innovative train services. These services are intended to be operational by 2030. The final recommendation of the member states advocates closer collaboration in setting down contracts regarding international train connections.
To underscore the importance of the European Year of Rail, State Secretary Van Veldhoven has appointed former member of the European Parliament Wim van de Camp as an Ambassador. He will be representing the Netherlands at several meetings.
Wim van de Camp (European Year of Rail Ambassador): ‘Great opportunities exist for the European railway sector. Rail transport now accounts for only 7 per cent of travellers and 11 per cent of freight in Europe, whereas it constitutes one of the most sustainable modes of transport. On behalf of the Netherlands, I am firmly committed to promoting this goal this year.’
Because of the Covid-19 situation, many of the meetings will be held online. By the end of the European Year of Rail, the Netherlands intends to organise a railway summit on international passenger traffic, along with Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.