Rail Research in Europe


From a rail perspective, Europe is one of the leading regions of the world with rail being a key component of the transport network in each country of this geographical area.

The development of high speed passenger services and the growing tendency towards a single European rail area with trains easily traversing state borders are among the key aspects of European policy and the main focus of the concept of interoperability.

Developing and indeed maintaining a rail system that is competitive, safe, interoperable and cost-effective and at the same time trying to attract investors and business partners, taking into account the current economic climate, means that the region has to collaborate at all levels to achieve success, as it is through the power of union that added value, innovation and development are at its most effective.

White Paper Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system

The European Commission adopted a roadmap of 40 concrete initiatives for the next decade to build a competitive transport system that will increase mobility, remove major barriers in key areas and fuel growth and employment. At the same time, the proposals will dramatically reduce Europe’s dependence on imported oil and cut carbon emissions in transport by 60% by 2050.

To meet this challenge by 2050, research and innovation are definitely necessary if Europe is to be the source of the cutting-edge technology that is essential to exploiting the potential competitiveness, capacity and reliability of the single European Railway Area whilst maintaining Europe’s world position in the rail industry – one of the few industrial sectors where it still enjoys global leadership.

By 2050, key goals will include:

  • No more conventionally-fuelled cars in cities.
  • 40% use of sustainable low carbon fuels in aviation; at least 40% cut in shipping emissions.
  • A 50% shift of medium distance intercity passenger and freight journeys from road to rail and waterborne transport.
  • All of which will contribute to a 60% cut in transport emissions by the middle of the century.

More specifically for the rail sector, the White Paper indicates that:

  • 30% of road freight over 300 km should shift to other modes such as rail or waterborne transport by 2030, and more than 50% by 2050.
  • By 2050 rail should substantially expand its modal share over medium and long distances for both passenger and freight, based on a dense network connected to all core airports and sea-ports, a major expansion of the high-speed network, and the deployment of ERTMS and of a European multimodal information, management and payment system.
  • By 2050, complete a European high speed rail network. Triple the length of the existing high speed rail network by 2030 and maintain a dense railway network in all Member States. By 2050 the majority of medium-distance passenger transport should go by rail.
  • A fully functional and EU-wide multimodal TEN-T core network, preferably high speed; ensure that all core seaports are sufficiently connected to the rail freight.
  • By 2020, a European multimodal transport information, management and payment system.
  • Move towards full application of “user pays” and “polluter pays” principles and private sector engagement to eliminate distortions, including harmful subsidies, generate revenues and ensure financing for future investments.

View online : White Paper Official document

European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC)

ERRAC was set up in 2001 as a Joint Technology Platform with the ambitious goal of creating a single European body with both the competence and capability to help revitalise the European rail sector and make it more competitive, by fostering increased innovation and guiding research efforts at European level.

Within ERRAC, all major rail stakeholders are gathered.
ERRAC comprises of 45 representatives from each of the major European rail research stakeholders: manufacturers, operators, infrastructure managers, the European Commission, EU Member States, academics and users’ groups. ERRAC covers all forms of rail transport: from conventional, high speed and freight applications to urban and regional services.

Since its start in 2001, ERRAC has produced a number of important and influential documents, such as:

  • The Joint Strategy for European rail Research
  • Vision 2020, the SRRA – Strategic Rail Research Agenda and its 2007 updated version
  • Suburban and Regional Railways Landscape in Europe, Light Rail and Metro Systems in Europe, Rail Research in Europe, a comparison of the Member States public research programmes with the ERRAC SRRA
  • Rail Route 2050

Finally, ERRAC has just carried out a 3 year rail research road mapping project called ERRAC ROADMAP.

Four major issues to be addressed have been highlighted for the ERRAC Roadmap:

  • Holistic rail strategies for the minimization of operation, environmental maintenance and inspection costs for vehicles and infrastructure in general
  • Simple and economical rail maintenance and renovation of rail infrastructure
  • Improved real time information systems for rail operators, infrastructure managers and customers
  • Coordination with other public and private bodies in order to better fit the customers’ needs.

Horizon 2020

Running from 2014 to 2020, Horizon 2020 will be the EU’s new programme for research and innovation.

Horizon 2020 should provide major simplification through a single set of rules. It would combine all research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programmes for Research and Technical Development, the innovation related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

According to the current discussions running within the EU institutions, Horizon 2020 should include 7690M€ dedicated to develop a “Smart, green and integrated transport”, of which 247M€ will be dedicated for EIT.

The specific objective of “Smart, green and integrated transport” is to achieve a European transport system that is:

  • Resource efficient,
  • Environmentally-friendly,
  • Safe
  • Seamless

For the benefit of:

  • citizens
  • the economy
  • society

Next steps:

  • Ongoing: Parliament and Council negotiations on EU budget 2014-20 (including overall budget for Horizon 2020)
  • By end 2013: Adoption of legislative acts by Parliament and Council on Horizon 2020
  • 01/01/2014: Horizon 2020 starts; launch of first calls Horizon 2020 will be adopted using the "ordinary legislative procedure" (formerly known as "co-decision")