The Connecting Europe Express train, part of the European Year of Rail 2021, started its journey on September 2 from Lisbon station, crossing 26 European countries until the first week of October.
The train will stop in more than 100 towns and cities during its five-week journey, before arriving in Paris on 7 October, connecting the Portuguese, Slovenian and French Presidencies of the Council of the EU.
“Rail is Europe’s future, our route to mitigating climate change and powering economic recovery from the pandemic, as we build a carbon-neutral transport sector. Over the coming weeks, the Connecting Europe Express will become a rolling conference, laboratory and forum for public debate on how to make rail the transport mode of choice for passengers and businesses alike. Please give us a warm welcome when we stop at a railway station near you,” European Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean said.
Along the train route, various events are planned to welcome the train at railway stations across Europe. Rail enthusiasts can also follow debates happening on board as well as conferences on EU infrastructure policy and the role of the Trans-European Transport Network that will be livestreamed via the event website from Lisbon, Bucharest, Berlin and Bettembourg.
The train will be also welcomed in Gdansk, where rail CEOs will gather for the CER annual General Assembly, hosted by Polish State Railways (PKP). Members of the European Parliament and representatives of the organisation Erasmus by Rail have also been invited to join an event in Strasbourg during plenary week, organised in collaboration with SNCF, which will focus on the topics of youth, rail and sustainability.
“The Connecting Europe Express is impressive proof of the success of the European Year of Rail, at the same time it points out our joint challenges ahead. CER members are committed to make the Green Deal a success,” CER Chair and CEO of Austrian Federal Railways, Andreas Matthä said.
The coaches are from by different European rail operators, and one of them, provided by MAV will host a mobile exhibition organised by the CINEA and the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking. It will showcase the many existing technologies and innovations improving the rail experience and show how the EU supports infrastructure projects. A conference coach (provided by SNCF, France), two standard seating coaches (DB, Germany and SBB, Switzerland), a dining coach (FS, Italy) and a sleeper coach (ÖBB, Austria) will complete the standard train. The Iberian train travelling between Portugal and Spain has been provided by Renfe, while Lithuanian LTG is operating the Baltic train.
“The time is now for the rail sector to seize the opportunity. Momentum is on our side, but without opening up the markets, having real competition, tearing down barriers we will not achieve a genuine European rail market,” the Director-General for Mobility and Transport Henrik Hololei said at the conference held in Lisbon.
The Connecting Europe Express train is the result of cooperation between the European Commission and the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), European rail operators, infrastructure managers and numerous other partners at EU and local level. Due to the different gauge widths in Europe, the Connecting Europe Express will comprise, three trains – the Iberian train, the Standard train and the Baltic train – that will meet along the route. The project is a reminder of the lack of interoperability between some parts of Europe’s rail network, but it will also demonstrate the very good cooperation in place between railway undertakings and infrastructure managers.