Following a 36-day journey and travelling 20,000 km the Connecting Europe Express train reached its final destination in Paris, at Gare de l’Est on October 7, 2021.
The train unified the European countries from West to East, North to South, and also has visited the neighbouring countries outside the EU. Specially put together for the occasion of the European Year of Rail, the train made over 120 stops, crossed 26 countries and 33 borders, travelling on three different gauges along the way.
“The Connecting Europe Express has been a rolling laboratory, revealing in real-time the many achievements of our Single European Rail Area and our TEN-T network to allow for seamless travel across our Union. I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who helped us turn the Connecting Europe Express from an idea into reality, a packed and exciting itinerary, memorable meetings, of minds and persons, and a true flag-bearer for European rail,” Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said.
The final event in Paris highlighted rail’s role to connect the entire Europe through a modern, high-quality rail infrastructure, its digital capabilities to create a better infrastructure management well as to provide increased capacity, safety, reliability and punctuality at the EU level, creating a single area through the deployment of the ERTMS.
Another conclusion the Connecting Europe Express train underlines is the need of a pan-European coordination and common requirements while the Single European Rail Area must be enhanced. Here, CER gives as example the 4th railway package that must be transposed quickly to eliminate other remaining obstacles created by national rules and establish an open and competitive European market for rail from technical, operational and commercial point of view.
The fourth conclusion the event raised underlines the need of rail transport to become more more attractive to encourage more people and companies to choose rail. Improving ticketing and options for planning travel across transport modes would help, as would lowering the costs of rail travel in comparison to the alternatives. Against this backdrop, the Commission will present an Action Plan to boost long-distance cross-border passenger rail services in December.
“The Connecting Europe Express has achieved two targets. Not only has it reached its final destination in Paris but, more importantly, it has highlighted the challenges in cross-border train services. If another important target, the Green Deal, is to be a success, it must become as easy to drive a train through Europe as it is to drive a truck,” Andreas Matthä, the Chair of CER and the CEO of Austrian Federal Railways, said.
The train started its journey on September 2, in Lisbon and put together the national, regional and local authorities, the society and the rail sector, from new entrants and incumbent operators to infrastructure managers and the supply industry. More than 40 partners from the sector joined forces to combine an Austrian sleeper coach with an Italian dining coach, a Swiss panoramic coach, a German seating coach, a French conference coach and a Hungarian exhibition coach. Completing the standard gauge train with an Iberian and Baltic train. The railway sector association CER coordinated the technical and operational running of the trains with the all railway actors involved.
More than 40 partners from the sector joined forces to combine an Austrian sleeper coach with an Italian dining coach, a Swiss panoramic coach, a German seating coach, a French conference coach and a Hungarian exhibition coach; completing the standard gauge train with an Iberian and Baltic train. The railway sector association CER coordinated the technical and operational running of the trains with the 40 plus railway actors involved.