Image Courtesy of the European Commission
It is an exciting time for the railway industry international cooperation has never been more pronounced, innovations and sustainable technologies have made trains the most environmentally sustainable form of transit. Even the United States, a country renowned for its love of cars, has begun to seriously invest in high-speed rail.
Europe leads the way in political and financial investment in its railway network, encouraging a modal shift towards trains. Committees and working groups have united industry stakeholders across the continent towards this goal, improving constantly to make it the most cutting-edge in the world.
UNIFE, the representative body for the European railway industry, is a leading organisation which hosts several groups and committees with the express purpose of focusing on the important issues for railways in Europe and enhancing the prominence of the railway industry on the European Parliaments agenda. The publication of its Annual Report provides an ideal opportunity to look at the key issues in the industry today.
The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Regulation is a European Commission-funded project which supports cross-border projects and those projects which tackle the main bottlenecks on the TEN-T multimodal Core Network Corridors on the continent, as well as encouraging private investment in the sector.
As part of this, the European Cohesion Fund aims to support Central and Eastern European Member States to invest in their infrastructure by benefitting from the experience of the Western European counterparts.
The TEN-T programme currently supports 112 rail projects with a total worth of 9.83billion throughout Europe, with the 2016 call for proposals offering a futher 7.5billion of funding for new projects.
The Fourth Railway Package is an ambitious initiave which aims to create a Single European Railway Area; a standardised railway network operating on uniform lines, signalling and control systems in order to create a cross-continental railway network which will in turn enhance European cohesion.
The Technical Pillar is a principal focus of UNIFEs activities; aiming to simplify the currently complicated and costly authorisation procedures which stifle the mobilisation of 1.2billion worth of assets.
2015 was an exceptionally successful year in the furtherance of the Technical Pillar, not only was a taskforce created by the EC to drive the preparatory work for the implementation of the Technical Pillar, dialogue also took place at the highest level and with the support of Member States to agree upon a legislative framework. It will be formalised later in 2016 to make the European Railway Agency (ERA) the regulation authority for the industry throughout Europe by 2019.
Shift2Rail is a relatively new initiative established by a European Joint Undertaking in 2014 which will oversee a programme of research and development for the railway sector. With a budget of 920million (from 20142020) it supports market-driven solutions by enabling and investing in new and cutting-edge rail product innovations. The initiative is part of the Horizons 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
The overall ambition of Shift2Rail is to enhance the competitiveness of the European railway industry, in a market increasingly dominated by Chinese companies. It will do this by doubling the capacity of the European railway system, increase its reliability and service quality by 50% and halve lifecycle costs.
Shift2Rail is part-funded by private investors and the EC. Its eight founding members are heavy-hitters Alstom, Ansaldo STS, Bombardier Transportation, CAF, Network Rail, Siemens, Thales and Trafikverket. It also has 19 associate members and input from academic, industry and regulatory bodies on a number of committees which serve in an advisory capacity.
A key goal of the CEF is to deploy the European Railway Traffic Management Signalling (ERTMS) system as a uniform standard across Europe. ERTMS took prominence in 2015 with a report on its longer-term future. An ERTMS Breakthrough Programme was recommended to speed up the deployment, and specifies the various challenges faced and recommends how they can best be overcome.
The original European Deployment Plans have been revised in accordance with Member States intended level of investment . The centralised role ERTMS will play in the creation of a single railway area was reaffirmed as a key part of the Commissions Transport in Europe strategy.
With heavyweight political and technical support, ERTMS is becoming an industry standard not only in Europe but also in Asia, and is making headway into the African and Latin American railway networks. With the support of various committees and working and advisory groups, it appears inevitable that the System will become the industry standard throughout the world.
The European Railway Industry is experiencing a renaissance creating itself as an exemplary network of cross-border cooperation and standardisation. Following the success of COP21 in December 2015, the world now looks for alternatives to air and road for environmentally sustainable transit solutions, and the railway industry has stepped up to meet the challenge. It leads the way in innovation, technology and sustainability, making itself commercially competitive whilst at the same time ethically minded.
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