The EC has approved an Italian scheme to compensate rail freight companies for financial damage suffered due to the pandemic.
More people are returning to rail travel post-pandemic according to the latest figures from the UK’s Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
GTR will continue to operate the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern rail services, having been awarded a new contract by the DfT.
Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth confirmed in a statement to parliament on 9 February that ScotRail would transfer into public ownership.
In his January column, Jonn Elledge muses about how former non-entity Stratford (London) became Britain's busiest station in 2020/21.
Following ongoing financial problems, NS-subsidiary Abellio will cease operating in Germany, with concessions awarded to other operators.
The ORR has published its Rail Industry Finance report for 2020–21, showing that the sector is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.
Deutsche Bahn is applying new requirements for passengers to carry proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative COVID-19 test.
Commuting into London lags behind rest of the UK says RDG, putting the recovery of London’s shops, theatres, restaurants and bars at risk.
A new report says that protecting light rail services is key to ensuring towns and cities recover from the impact of Covid-19.
New figures from the Office of Rail and Road show that UK rail travel started to rebound between April and June 2021.
The amount of freight moved across the Uk's railway has returned to pre-pandemic levels according to new Office of Rail and Road statistics.
TfL's recent ad campaign to get passengers back using its trains and buses is a symptom of its underlying funding woes, writes Jonn Elledge.
Data from the UK rail industry shows bank holiday weekend ticket sales to seaside destinations have surpassed pre-pandemic levels.
A Swiss news broadcaster has accused the FV-DOSTO trains operated by Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) of being 'covid catapults'.
The Scottish government is to provide a further £5.6m emergency funding to Glasgow Subway and Edinburgh Trams in response to the pandemic.
The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has extended GTR’s Emergency Recovery Measures Agreement (ERMA) until 31 March 2022.
Network Rail says that more freight is now being transported across one of its busiest business regions than before the pandemic.
Eurostar has reached a refinancing agreement with its shareholders and banks worth £250m (289.9m euros | 353.9m USD).
UK rail companies have added more than 2,500 daily services to their timetables, which come into play today.
FirstGroup, the company that owns the train operating company TransPennine Express, has agreed a termination fee with the DfT.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has announced 1.69 billion USD in relief funding for Amtrak in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Following increased demand and with the help of Congressional funding, Amtrak will restore daily services to 12 long-distance services.
The USDOT and DART have agreed a refinancing of a $908 million loan for the Silver Line that will save DART $190 million in interest payments.
Following its annoucement of this plan in October 2020 the Welsh government has now taken the Wales & Borders franchise into public ownership.
The Voice of European Railways (CER) says railways in the EU27 made losses of 26 billion euros in 2020 because of COVID-19.
Avlo, Renfe's new low-cost high-speed passenger service that will run between Madrid and Barcelona, will launch on 23 June 2021.
Amtrak's CEO has written to Congress outlining the passenger railroad's five key demands to recover from COVID and expand services.
French transport minister confirms to the National Assembly that France would make sure it supported Eurostar and was in talks with Britain.
There are renewed calls on the UK government to provide support to Eurostar to prevent Britain's only international rail link from folding.
Jure Mikolcic, CEO of Stadler Pankow GmbH, at the VDB Digital Dialog Forum "Rail Revolution 4.0: Picking up Speed after the Crisis".
Train operator Grand Central to resume services from December at a reduced level. These will be reservation-only to enable social distancing.
State aid: the European Commission has approved Austrian measures to support passenger and rail freight affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Railtex 2021, which was to be held jointly with Infrarail in May 2021, has been postponed to 7–9 September because of COVID-19.
Following the funding agreement reached between TfL and goverment, consultancy work on Crossrail 2 will end, safeguarding will continue.
Midlands Voices report by the High Speed Rail Group says the eastern leg of HS2 up to Leeds is crucial for levelling up the country.
The United States has a new president-elect, Joe Biden. But why is he called 'Amtrak Joe'? And what has he said about the importance of rail?
TfL has reached a deal with the UK government over funding for the next six months following collapsed revenues due to the coronavirus crisis.
Because of coronavirus developments, the InnoTrans organisers say they can't provide planning certainy and have postponed the 2021 event.
The Welsh Government is taking the Wales & Borders franchise under public control starting in February 2021 as a result of COVID-19.
London: TfL has agreed with the government that its funding package can be extended by 2 weeks as discussions about future funding continue.
The UK Department for Transport and Arriva CrossCountry have signed a three-year agreement to align the franchise with the ERMAs.
A private rail freight protest train made its way through Berlin to draw attention to the German government's one-sided support of DB.
The UK government is abolishing rail franchising in the wake of coronavirus and has set up Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs).
EU: The Parliament has voted for regulations allowing Member States to authorise infrastructure managers to waive track access charges.
Coronavirus has changed the way TOCs operate in Britain. Gareth Dennis believes this is and should be the nail in the coffin for franchising.
Deutsche Bahn and CRO are conducting a joint study into the risks of contracting coronavirus for conductors on trains.
France says it will waive railway track access charges for the rest of 2020 and reduce them by half for the duration of 2021.
InnoTrans says that despite having to move the event to 2021 as a result of coronavirus, exhibitor bookings are at 2018 levels.
Rail Live 2020, which was due to take place at Long Marston, UK, on 9 and 10 September has been cancelled. New dates: 16 and 17 June 2021.
The central Crossrail section will not open next summer now as previously promised because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Alstom has published its financial results for Q1 of 2020/21, with total orders up compared to the same period in the previous year.
The CER has published a position paper advocating for applying the user-pays and polluter-pays principles across the transport sector.
UTLC Eurasian Rail Alliance says it has seen an increase in mail trains from China to Europe as a result of the restrictions on air freight.
Coronavirus: OEBB will resume its Nightjet sleeper trains to destinations such as Prague, Zurich, Berlin and Venice starting on 26 June.
Rail freight punctuality has increased from 60 percent to 80–90 percent during the coronavirus crisis due to greater network availability.
The German stimulus package has been welcomed by rail groups, saying it will push forward important innovations and provide much-needed funds.
Deutsche Bahn says that despite the coronavirus pandemic less than 1 percent of rail infrastructure works have been cancelled or postponed.
Coronavirus: from 15 June face coverings will become mandatory on public transport in England in line with a further easing of restrictions.
After the German government moved ahead with an ongoing exemption to the lorry toll, rail groups have asked the Bundesrat for help.
Passenger services in Switzerland can resume fully in June following an easing of restrictions put in place because of coronavirus.
Private railway undertakings in Germany want to seek assistance from the European Commission following a DB-only bailout package approval.
There is anger at the coronavirus agreement signed by Deutsche Bahn and the federal government that excludes non-state railways.
Deutsche Bahn has reached a coronavirus agreement with the German government, union, works council and employers' association.
From June Deutsche Bahn will run train services into all neighbouring countries again, following a gradual resumption in May.
2020 has its challenges to the rail sector with the coronavirus pandemic but there has been good news too: HS2 has its notice to proceed.
The Ceneri Base Tunnel opening ceremony is to go ahead as planned in September though on a smaller scale due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Rail freight operator Lineas has turned one of its locomotives white to say thank you to all the key workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
An interview with Dirk Flege from rail advocacy group Allianz pro Schiene about Germany's coronavirus measures for the rail sector and more.
Kilsby Tunnel on the West Coast Main Line has undergone major repair works during the coronavirus slowdown to fix track flooding issues.
Transport for London (TfL) has received coronavirus bailout – a mixture of grants and loans from the government worth 1.6 billion GBP.
HS2 says it will pay its suppliers as soon as possible rather than within the contract terms and has asked Tier 1 contractors to do the same.
Talgo publishes its financial outlook and results for the first quarter of 2020 with a solid order book despite delays due to coronavirus.
After a 6-week stop to passenger rail services between Germany and France, the first ICE train travelled from Frankfurt to Paris on 11 May.
Deutsche Bahn reduced its timetable significantly during the coronavirus pandemic. DB Regio services are now back up to 90 percent.
The first test at 275km/h has taken place in the Ceneri Base Tunnel with the ICE-S from Germany. The tunnel will go to SBB on 1 September.
The RSG is launching a survey to inform its decision-making on how the UK rail supply chain can make a full, fast recovery from coronavirus.
TMH's Ivolga EMUs, which operate in Russia, feature an HVAC system that has air-sanitising equipment to kill microorganisms.
Coronavirus: After suspending non-essential works at its manufacturing sites across Canada on 24 March, Bombardier is resuming operations.
Rail services are to return to normal timetables in Western Australia sooner than planned following the coronavirus pandemic.
After it was announced that InnoTrans 2020 had to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the organisers have published new dates.
InnoTrans 2020 has been postponed due to a decision by the Berlin Senate to ban all gatherings of more than 5000 people until 24 October.
With coronavirus restrictions on public life and businesses in Switzerland being relaxed, rail services will increase again as well.
With a loosening of restrictions placed on public life in Germany because of the coronavirus pandemic, more rail services resume operations.
Network Rail's call for more signalling staff to weather the coronavirus pandemic has moved forward with the opening of a training centre.
DB has extended its policy to forego track cancellation charges by four weeks with train operators scaling back services during coronavirus.
InnoTrans 2020 and coronavirus: options about delaying the event or alternative scenarios will be presented in early May.
An easing of restrictions imposed by the Spanish government in response to coronavirus has allowed manufacturing to resume in the country.
Bombardier Transportation has resumed activities at its UK sites in Derby, Ilford and Crewe as well as at its Beglian site in Bruges.
Transfesa Logistics has launched a refrigerated train to transport food, medical and hygiene supplies from Spain to the UK.
The rail industry, associations, and unions have responded to the UK government's approval for HS2 Ltd to issue Notice to Proceed.
The first contruction phase on the Naples-Bari high-speed line, between Naples and Cancello, is continuing with safety measures in place.
The UK government has given HS2 Ltd the approval to issue Notice to Proceed to the four main works civils contractors working on the project.
OEBB has seen an increase in demand for its international rail freight services during coronavirus due to border restrictions for lorries.
BLS Cargo says its 2019 results have been positive but it has called the outlook for 2020 'bleak' in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
RB Rail AS has awarded two contracts for the design of two sections of the Rail Baltica project in Latvia. The sections are 94km and 45km.
Deutsche Bahn is continuing its recruitment efforts despite the coronavirus pandemic but has shifted to digital interviews and training.
ERFA and UIP call for European Union state aid measures to be implemented for infrastructure mangagers in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Network Rail says it is moving to immediate payments for its suppliers to avoid cashflow issues and keep the supply chain strong.
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by Josephine Cordero Sapién
20 May 2020
By Tommaso Spanevello, UNIFE
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted economies around the world as it has forced people’s daily lives to a grinding halt. The coronavirus outbreak is reasonably expected to have lasting impacts on our individual behaviour and lifestyle, particularly on the way we work, consume and travel. In regard to the latter, transport and mobility are at the epicentre of the immediate and long-term challenges posed by the global health crisis. From urban traffic to international trade flow, bustling movement has given way to hushed calm. Many countries have closed their borders and imposed curfews – resulting in sharp reductions in transport demand at both the local and continental level.
Nonetheless, even during such difficult times, transport’s fundamental function of moving people and goods has remained an imperative, not a choice. The whole European rail sector, including its supply industry, has been working relentlessly to keep the inevitable economic impact as limited as possible while ensuring that international supply chains best continue to move seamlessly under these unprecedented circumstances.
UNIFE believes that a strong response to the post COVID-19 economic and social consequences must be taken primarily at the EU level, in conjunction with national efforts. To that end, we strongly welcome the Roadmap for Recovery ‘Towards a more resilient, sustainable and fair Europe’, endorsed by Member States in April. In particular, the document includes a strong investment component that welcomingly confirms an upcoming “comprehensive recovery package with the EU budget at its heart” for a Marshall Plan-type investment effort. It also defines key areas for action, including investments in clean and digital technologies, ensuring the strategic autonomy of the EU through a dynamic industrial policy and the crucial restoration of trade flows and supply routes.
Perspectives and Solutions for Rail Passenger Transport
Rail and public transport find themselves particularly under pressure as governments worldwide struggle to engineer a gradual, cautious restart of several economic and commercial activities. Arguably, in the short- and perhaps medium-term, ridership and transport demand are likely to drop for both mainline and urban passenger services as sanitary guidelines continue to recommend social distancing and the limitation of our movements.
Despite the ongoing crisis and its stringent sanitary guidelines, the whole rail sector has not been sitting around waiting. During this time, the rail community has been looking to the future and working on a systematic, sensible and coordinated response. The goal is to put in place a set of measures targeting each phase of a mainline and urban journeys that sharply minimise the risks for the public transport staff as well as for passengers, curbing further the spreading of the infection.
Such measures would require an efficient coordination between transport companies and public security and health authorities , as much as their implementation would follow a careful assessment based on scientific evidence. These norms, whenever communicated, must be adequately accessible and understandable by everyone. Additionally, on the supply industry side, European rail manufacturers have made the safety of workers an absolute priority, while making unprecedented efforts to ensure the continuity of the production.
The rail sector has actively followed public health guidelines to help ‘’flatten the curve’’ and inspire public confidence in public transport during this distressing period. For example, it has become obligatory to wear personal protective gear such as masks and gloves and to disinfect vehicles and facilities. Furthermore, the sector has rearranged timetables and reorganised indoor spaces to limit ‘peak hours’ and ensure safe distance between users at all times.
Following this further, new digital applications offer public rail transport solutions that will help navigate it successfully through this storm. There exists a plethora of data-driven technologies that can be utilised by health and public transport authorities to facilitate and accelerate their decision- making. Locating and tracing passengers in real-time while communicating this information to users simultaneously is a scenario that is feasible due to the recent wave of data-driven innovation that mobility has been experiencing. In a sanitary emergency, such as the world currently finds itself, a clear picture of how, when and where people move would allow authorities to reorganise public transport in an efficient and safe manner.
The European rail supply industry has been leading the way in acknowledging the importance of streamlined data collection and processing to devise actionable insights. European rail manufacturers have been long calling for multi-stakeholder collaboration within the sector. The setting of a framework for data sharing processes across the mobility chain could be a reliable asset for public transport in the present time of the global health crisis. Collaborative research programmes, such as the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking, would be crucial in the development of the enabling technologies.
Rail Freight: Keeping Europe Supplied
As rail passenger transport is working hard to get through the winding path, it is rail freight which has claimed a central role during this crisis. In fact – especially in the early stage of the infection’s surge – the urgency to contain the coronavirus from spreading uncontrollably has caused borders to regrettably reappear across our continent. Suddenly, the logistics chain was abruptly disrupted. Once defined by frictionless border crossing, European freight transportation was suddenly mired by grounded airplanes or endless queues of lorries.
Notwithstanding the gridlock, the European supply chain has kept moving thanks to its railways. Indeed, rail freight transport has provided the lifeline for raw materials, medical equipment, food and other essential products to continue to circulate around Europe. Rail freight has been finally able to leverage to its fullest potential its high capacity, safety and efficiency for the good of the EU. As a matter of fact, rail freight has proved to be a strategic asset for the EU economy, offering reliable cross-border cargo connections for large volumes of goods using minimal human resources. The importance of rail freight operations can be expected to grow even further over the coming months, and is an excellent opportunity to make the logistics chain more sustainable.
In March, UNIFE welcomed the European Commission’s adoption of the ‘’Guidelines for border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services’’. The Guidelines set forth ‘’green lanes’’ for freight transport in order to untangle the circulation of goods and ensure the availability of supplies while emphasising the importance of ensuring continuous flows along the TEN-T Network.
The Green Deal’s Climate Priorities during the Health Emergency
Even before the pandemic sudden appearance, the European Union was at a crossroads concerning its future economic and social model. Climate change, in particular, has been one of the most pressing issues to solve. A way forward would require not only a different political mindset, but concrete steps to enable businesses, industries and citizens to drive forward a transformation of production and consumption based on sustainability and resource-efficiency.
Last December, the European Commission (EC) launched the European Green Deal (EGD) as the hallmark of its mandate, under the responsibility of EC Vice-President Frans Timmermans. The ambition of the EGD is to affirm Europe as the global leader in the transition to a net-zero greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions economy, by reaching full climate neutrality by 2050. All sectors and industries
are expected to proactively contribute this goal by reducing their carbon footprint and will be subject to different measures aimed at supporting Europe’s overarching sustainability goals.
As the coronavirus infection surged, UNIFE and other economic and civil society actors firmly advocated for the EU’s continued commitment to the EGD priorities and objectives. UNIFE argued that Climate neutrality and the green transition should not be watered down or dismissed due to the worldwide sanitary emergency.
In this regard, European rail manufacturers welcome the Roadmap for Recovery, approved by EU Member States on 23 April, explicitly acknowledges the Green Deal as a crucial enabler for Europe’s post covid-19 economic recovery. UNIFE fully agrees that the Green Deal is as much an economic growth instrument as it is a climate plan and endorses the call for massive investments to be channelled into the European green transition.
Mobility is built into the architecture of the Green Deal. As the transport sector accounts for nearly a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gases emissions, climate neutrality cannot be achieved without the decarbonisation of transport. Rail stands out as the exception. It is the only mode which has reduced its emissions while improving further its energy efficiency and increasing its capacity – and is therefore essential to achieve the Green Deal’s climate ambitions.
Within this framework, according to the European Commission’s new work programme, a strategy for ‘’sustainable and smart mobility’’ is expected to be launched by EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean at the end of this year. Modal-shift to sustainable modes such as rail will be key to accomplishing the strategy’s ground-breaking goal to reduce transport emissions by 90% by 2050 – compared to 1990 levels.
A Way Forward for Rail Transport in the Post-Crisis World
Throughout the present global health emergency, rail public transport has indisputably been facing a number of considerable challenges. It has tested its resilience, resourcefulness and ability to adapt to an extraordinarily unpredictable degree.
However, these weeks have also shown that even when our countries are brought to a near-standstill, rail and urban rail systems (i.e. trams/metros/urban rail) have continued to ensure the circulation of goods and the continuation of fundamental services. The circumstances has showed the rail sector’s support to national health systems – as seen in the case of special ‘’medical trains’’ to transfer patients from one region to the other – and the transportation of passenger working in ‘’essential professions’’. This has been made possible thanks to major EU investments in rail projects in the past years, in particular through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and the European structural and investment (ESI) funding instruments, which has modernised European infrastructure, eliminating bottlenecks and bridging missing links.
The strategic role played by rail during the COVID-19 crisis, and its assets as the greenest and safest mode of mass transportation, should convince Member States’ governments to direct huge investments towards strengthening future transport systems with rail as their backbone. UNIFE firmly believes that Europe needs a massive infrastructure investment programme as part of the green recovery roadmap, and investments in rail must be at the forefront of this initiative.
UNIFE hopes that European institutions and Member States will mobilise ambitious EU and national financial envelopes to relaunch Europe’s economy while fostering key climate objectives set by the Commission in its European Green Deal. European rail manufacturers believe that the transition towards climate neutrality must be at the centre of the revised Commission’s Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027 proposal and the Roadmap for Recovery. Furthermore, the forthcoming ‘Sustainable and Smart Mobility’ strategy in the context of the Green Deal offers an additional opportunity to shape the European economic and social upturn within a long-term outlook based on climate neutrality, resource efficiency and circularity.
Throughout its long history, rail transport has overseen significant economic, political and social turmoil. Its reliability, immovability and safety has got it through those earlier trials and has proved to be a strategic asset for citizens and economies in their pattern to recover. The coronavirus global health crisis has posed unprecedented challenges to which the whole rail community, once again, is working tirelessly to respond. The European rail supply industry reaffirms its readiness to work together with the European Commission, European Parliament and Member States to ensure that rail transport best contributes to both the recovery of the EU economy and the wellbeing of European citizens.