What the European rail sector is asking of the renewed institutions

06. 12. 2019

Libor Lochman has been Executive Director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) since 1 January 2012 - in the RCG-Talk.

For more than thirty years CER has been making the case for the European rail operating community vis à vis the EU Commission and legislators.

We stand by and reiterate at every possible occasion the core message that rail is key for European mobility, key for ensuring the sustainability of that mobility, and ultimately a key piece of the jigsaw puzzle the EU must urgently put together if we want to take our fight against climate change seriously.

A new EU legislature: what the European rail sector is asking of the renewed institutions

by Libor Lochman


When the President-elect of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen spoke about a ‘European Green Deal’ in front of the European Parliament Plenary in July this year, CER welcomed the new EU vision as the recognition of the battle fought by many stakeholders for a greener Europe, and as the perfect window of opportunity for ensuring that rail is at the centre of many future EU policy initiatives. 

The European Green Deal

The European Green Deal should become Europe’s hallmark. At the heart of it is our commitment to becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent. It will require collective ambition, political leadership and a just transition for the most affected”. First Executive Vice-President-designate, Dutchman Frans Timmermans.

And he had clear words on transport and transport emissions too: “Too many of us live in cities where we cough and splutter on our daily commute due to the abundance of polluting cars […]. Other Europeans would love to travel by rail for work or leisure but find themselves constrained by economic or time imperatives to take cheap flights instead, because we have not sufficiently invested in long-distance and cross-border rail. The European Green Deal is a chance to reconnect our villages, towns and cities, rebalance the inequalities between them, and at the same time clean up the Earth’s atmosphere and the air we breathe.”

We could not have put it better ourselves. We do however have a good reading recommendation for the future First Executive Vice-President (and for whoever wants to help follow up on his commitments): Ever better railways for an ever closer Union – the CER Policy Agenda 2019-2024. There, the whole new College of Commissioners can find great suggestions for making concrete steps towards ensuring more sustainable EU mobility.

Imagine a truck, only clean...

...an electric truck for example, running on electricity from renewable sources. And now try to picture an electric truck, with a fully automated driving system: the driver can relax while intelligent transport systems allow each vehicle to communicate with the infrastructure as well as between themselves, providing the highest possible level of safety for all road users.

And now I dare you to imagine...

...that one day, when enough billions will have been spent in research and innovation by the road industry and co-funded by the European Union, we will have convoys of such clean, automated, super-safe trucks: dozens of trucks one after the other, all in a line, with no overtaking to aggravate congestion.

Still too many to allow decent capacity for other road users to travel and commute? Well, then I guess there’s definitely a case for moving these convoys of clean, automated and super-safe trucks onto dedicated infrastructure…

If you are technically-minded, you may even envisage things like rolling resistance and that all these vehicles could have a (much) improved performance. Once you have reached that point, you will have to admit that what you are picturing looks a lot like one of the thousands of trains that cross Europe every day.

Thus, would it not be wise...

...alongside the improvement of road technology, to consider boosting rail capacity and invest in rail innovation, so as to get the most out of what is already a sustainable and intelligent transport mode today?