EU to triple funding for rail research

The European Commission is to triple its funding for rail research and development after formally adopting the industry initiative ‘Shift2Rail’.

Eighty companies are already supporting the ‘Shift2Rail‘ scheme which will work to double the capacity of Europe’s rail network, increase reliability by up to 50 per cent and cut the life-cycle costs of rail in half.

Close to €1 billion will be ploughed into the seven-year rail research and innovation programme after the EU today (December 16) confirmed that it would put forward €450 million between 2014-2020 to meet €470 million already committed by the rail industry itself.

Research will focus on developing new trains and traffic management systems to boost capacity and reliability, improving existing infrastructure, developing better integrated ticketing and journey planning systems and improving inter-modal freight solutions.

Companies who have already signed up to initiative include rail equipment and rolling stock manufacturers such as Alstom, Ansaldo STS, Bombardier, Siemens, Thales and CAF as well as infrastructure managers Trafikverket and Network Rail. Each of the organisations have agreed to contribute at least €30 million towards the programme.

Siim Kallas, the European Commission vice president responsible for transport, said: “If we want to get more passengers and freight on Europe’s railways, then rail needs provide better services and offer an attractive choice to more customers. For that to happen, rail needs to innovate. This public-private partnership is a major breakthrough, it will drive innovation to reduce the costs of rail services, increase capacity and provide more reliable, frequent rail services for customers.”

Philippe Citroën, director general of UNIFE, the body coordinating the SHIFT²RAIL initiative, said the project would allow the EU rail industry to “maintain leadership of the world rail market”.

He added: “Shift2Rail will bring together on a large scale for the first time in our history, industry, railway undertakings, urban operators, infrastructure managers, SMEs and research centres/academia from all over the European Union to solve our collective transport challenges.”