Shift2Rail 2.0 helps European rail industry to maintain its leadership

The companies supporting Shift2Rail underlined that maintaining the status quo for rail research in Europe was not an option. European leadership of the global rail market could only be maintained if a critical mass from committed EU industry joined forces to develop innovative, high-capacity and high-quality products.

Capitalising on the rail sector’s success in European Union-funded collaborative research projects since the mid 90s, Shift2Rail constituted a natural evolution from European Union (EU) industrial research cooperation in Horizon 2020. It was also clear that realising the ambitious EU transport policy and climate change goals required a massive coordinated investment in rail research.
Under the coordination of UNIFE, interested players (not only from the entire rail supply chain, but also those with wider sector expertise) joined the preparation phase on a voluntary basis, and helped build the strong foundation of this public-private partnership.
Thus, 25 major rail stakeholders were signatories of the Shift2Rail MoU for the preparatory phase, committing to long-term investment in the future of European rail research.
Now, after many years since Shift2Rail was launched, more than 60 additional companies – industrial partners, railway undertakings, urban operators and infrastructure managers — joined the initiative, bringing in their expertise under the framework of the technical preparatory phase.
Sector cooperation on rail research is essential to boost modal shift to rail for passenger and freight transport and at the same time ensure that the European rail industry maintains its leadership position vis á vis foreign competitors. Continuity and adaptation to ongoing challenges are needed in order to make the Shift2Rail Programme a success story and pave the way for its successor Shift2Rail 2.0 under the next European Commission’s Framework Programme 9 (FP9). This was the key message put forward by UNIFE and the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (JU) at the Rail Forum Europe debate organised at the beginning of this May.
“Innovation in railways through digitalisation and automation making use of, for example, telecoms of next generation and the rapid developments in artificial intelligence, is a necessary step the sector must undertake to deliver a user-centred mobility as a service for passengers and freight. It should accompany an evolution within the industry towards a new business model boosting its competitiveness and attractiveness. Shift2Rail will provide the necessary platform for European R&I to deliver innovative solutions to complete the Single European Railway Area”, Carlo Borghini, Shift2Rail Executive Director, outlined. He then highlighted the need for a new approach to mobility as a service, in line with the 2030 global agenda and sustainable development goals.
“The Shift2Rail programme is indispensable for the attractiveness of rail transport and the competitiveness of the European rail industry. Staying at the forefront of research and innovation will be a key factor if Europe wants to win the industrial battle against foreign competitors. For this reason, UNIFE calls for Shift2Rail 2.0 in the next EU Research Framework Programme (FP9), in continuity with the activities being currently developed under Shift2Rail and in response to new challenges, such as urban transport and digitalisation”, Philippe Citroën, UNIFE Director General emphasised.
“Shift to Rail is exactly what we all want to make transport more sustainable. Rail research is an essential tool for this objective. Shift2Rail and its successor Shift2Rail 2.0  could be the win-win solution for the European citizens and for the rail sector as a whole. Believe it or not, self-driving cars are sexy for the newspapers, but what people want is more and efficient public transport. I really hope that Shift2Rail won’t be yet another missed opportunity for the rail sector”, Rail Forum Europe Chairman, Michael Cramer, stated.

by Elena Ilie

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