The negotiators from the Council and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on designating 2021 as the European Year of Rail. Throughout the year there will be a range of events and other initiatives designed to increase the proportion of people and goods travelling by rail, in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal.
The Year of Rail will promote railways as a sustainable, innovative and safe mode of transport, which is capable of guaranteeing essential services even during unexpected crises. This has been shown by the strategic role played by rail in maintaining crucial connections during the COVID-19 pandemic, for the transport both of people and of essential goods.
Other objectives for the year will include raising awareness of the cross-border European dimension of rail transport and increasing its contribution to the EU’s economy, industry and society.
The Commission will be asked to consider launching two feasibility studies. One will be on the creation of a European label to promote goods transported by rail, and the other will explore the idea of a rail connectivity index, similar to the one that already exists for air transport. The Commission is required to inform the Council and the European Parliament of its plans by the end of March 2021.
“Rail is the answer to many critical issues in the area of mobility, such as climate neutrality, energy efficiency, crisis resilience and safety. The European Year of Rail aims to give a boost to the sector and to encourage more tourists, business people and manufacturers to choose the train,” said Andreas Scheuer, the German Federal Minister of Transport, President of the Council.
The provisional agreement reached on 12 November is subject to approval by the Council. The presidency intends to submit the agreement for endorsement by the Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) this week.
In March, the European Commission has announced that 2021 will be the year dedicated to the railway transport.
The transport sector accounts for a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, and emissions from transport are still growing. To achieve the goal of climate neutrality by 2050, the transport emissions must be reduced by 90% for which rail plays a crucial role as emits far less CO2 than equivalent travel by road or air. In addition, rail is the only transport mode that has consistently reduced its greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. To achieve the Green Deal’s objective, 75% of the inland freight transport carried by road should shift to rail and inland waterways.