The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), together with the Alliance of Passenger Rail New Entrants in Europe (ALLRAIL), the European Association for Forwarding, Transport, Logistics and Customs Services (CLECAT), the European Passengers’ Federation (EPF), Erasmus by Train e.V. (EbT) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), came together to formally close the European Year of Rail, on the occasion of the European Railway Summit organised within the framework of the French Presidency of the EU Council.
2021 was an extremely challenging year for railways. The Covid-19 pandemic hit the sector hard, and its impact is still felt today with more than €50 billion of cumulated losses. Despite these difficulties, our associations have nonetheless supported the European Commission, with full commitment and passion, in the organisation of an important and varied calendar of European Year of Rail (EYR) activities, with particular focus given to the important role of raising awareness for our mode of transport.
Among many important initiatives, the Connecting Europe Express (CEE) was arguably the flagship endeavour of the EYR. It set off from Lisbon on 2 September for a 6-week journey across Europe arriving in Paris on 7 October. The train bridged three different gauge systems and brought together many actors in the rail community during its delivery and operation. More than that, railways reached out beyond Brussels to the broader public of national and regional policymakers, as well as to the wider European civil society. Raising awareness to inspire behavioural change has been the main objective of the activities organised during 2021.
Thanks to the European Year of Rail, European citizens are today more conscious of the sustainability credentials of railways. We believe that, reinforced by our commitment to the continuous improvement of the passenger experience, rail will become the backbone of transport, delivering Europe’s goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, reducing air pollution, and relieving congestion.
We now look forward to 2022, to build together upon the achievements of 2021 and to transform them into positive policy results on the very important dossiers currently debated by the EU institutions, from the revision of the TEN-T guidelines to the Fit for 55 legislative package and Action Plan to boost long-distance and cross border passenger rail services
By doing so we take another step closer to the achievement of the targets set by the EU Strategy on Sustainable and Smart Mobility, including doubling high-speed rail by 2030 and tripling it by 2050, as well as doubling rail freight share by 2050.
We also take this opportunity to welcome 2022 as the European Year of Youth. We will continue to draw public attention to how railways contribute to the building of a truly European identity – something for which rail services such as DiscoverEU undoubtedly play an important role. By working together with European youth organisations, railways will show once more how the beauty of our continent is best explored when travelling by train and how the engagement and participation of European youth is essential for a greener, more sustainable and therefore also more just future, in which rail plays an important role.