ISABEL PARDO DE VERA
“It is necessary to act decisively to defend a sector that represents thousands of jobs”.
The COVID 19 disease has caused a painful and complicated situation, which, however, has also shown the resilience of our country, since we managed to solve the main needs of the population effectively. Railways enabled the mobility of people and goods, and therefore, the supply of our markets and our industry, ensuring the transportation of essential personnel in a reliable and safe manner. I want to take this opportunity, once again, to thank the Adif and Adif AV workers for the enormous professionalism they have shown during these months.
In the European environment, there was a close collaboration that allowed us to adopt best practices and coordinate our responses. In our country, public-private collaboration has not stopped and, looking to the future, an important agreement was signed between Adif and Mafex. Thanks to this agreement, Spanish companies will have access, with Adif’s support, to new markets in which the commitment to rail, in the post-COVID environment, may be more decisive.
The consequences of the pandemic have been severe for the railway sector, due to the collapse of mobility and the slowdown in projects. It is necessary to act decisively to defend a sector that represents thousands of jobs. We must seize this opportunity so that the railway occupies its rightful place in the logistics chain, as a sustainable and clean mode of transport. Our efforts, both in the public and private sectors, must be aimed at ensuring that the Green Deal, announced by the EU, is translated into ambitious and realistic funding.
This circumstance also adds to the liberalization process in which we are immersed, that will allow for new operators to enter the market, and through the increase in traffic, will improve the entity’s sustainability.
In short, Adif and the rest of the railway sector have before them a list of challenges to tackle, that we will overcome by working together.
“The railway is doing what it does best:facilitating the
mobility of passengers and goods in a fast, sustainable and committed way”.
The coronavirus continues to alter public life worldwide. We know that the pandemic dramatically affects the transportation sector due to restrictions on mobility. The scenario continues to be conditioned by the degree of progress of the research and the level of effectiveness of the virus control strategies, and by the effectiveness of the political and economic stimulus measures mobilized. The situation will improve hand in hand with these factors, and due to the efforts of companies in offering safe spaces and with new hygienic and sanitary protocols that are here to stay.
This situation implies that operators have to review their short and medium-term strategies in the face of possible changes in mobility guidelines. At Renfe we are focused on it, updating our Strategic Plan.
Our approach is that the railway will emerge stronger from this situation. During this period we have achieved certification with AENOR of travel protocols, from check-in to disembarkation, including all cleaning, disinfection and information activities on board our HS and long distance services, which guarantee a travel space safe from the health point of view, and we are already working on a certification for commuter trains, the true engine of urban mobility in many cities in Spain.
Meanwhile comes the end of this terrible pandemic, the railway is doing what it does best: facilitating the mobility of passengers and goods in a fast, sustainable and committed way.
During the worst days of the disease in Spain, the railway world has shown its best side, allowing, for example, that more than 25,000 health professionals have traveled free on board in HS services. We have also worked with various public and private organizations to transport essential medical equipment urgently at high speed, with the aim of saving lives.
Now, when we have left the worst scenario behind, we will continue to accompany our clients and users to guarantee their mobility needs, gradually increasing the frequencies and seats in the different services according to the needs of the demand.
The challenges, such as the liberalization of passenger transport and technological disruption, are still there and it is necessary to continue working to achieve full adaptation. The train has been and will be one of the best ways to travel quickly, safely and comfortably. And doing so with Renfe will continue to be a guarantee.
“The intermodal competitive field should be redressed with fairer rules”.
Some weeks ago, at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, policymakers started wondering whether the sustainability ambitions of the European Union could be maintained, and if the path set by decades of pro-climate public debate was the right way to a quick economic recovery.
Luckily enough the European Commission made clear that sustainability will have to be a necessary feature of any Member State recovery plan hoping to benefit from the resources of Next Generation EU (the EU extraordinary fund also known as ‘Recovery Fund’).
n this context, the environmental and energy efficiency credentials of railways – coupled with the remarkable resilience shown during the worst days of the pandemic – should make them prime targets of national government attention. Of course nothing will be easy: today, even though rail is recognised as the leading green mode, much remains to be done to enable rail services’ offer to meet citizens’ demand for sustainable, efficient and affordable mobility.
CER’s key message is triple:
- Adequate funding should be provided to rail investments, ensuring the right quality level of infrastructure and of passenger and freight services.
- The intermodal competitive field should be redressed with fairer rules. The wide application of the ‘polluter-pays’ and ‘user-pays’ principles across all transport modes is key to internalise transport externalities.
- Last but not least, further digitalisation of rail will contribute to making the system both more sustainable and more competitive.
If we want to achieve net-zero emissions in the wider EU economy by 2050, both EU and national policymakers had better take note of these three suggestions and keep them in mind when reflecting upon any upcoming legislative initiative.
EUROPEAN RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE MANAGERS (EIM)
GUUS DE BRUIJN
LEGAL & POLICY EXPERT
JAVIER MORENO COLOMA
“The challenges and opportunities of COVID for European Rail Infrastructure
The current President of the EC, Ursula von der Leyen, declared to aim for a resilient, green, and digital Europe1.
This ambition comes with numerous opportunities but also challenges for the rail sector, including infrastructure managers.
Furthermore, COVID introduced new opportunities, such as the recognition of rail as an essential ecosystem of the European single market.
The challenge consists in delivering on the rising expectations on rail to make Europe green, digital and resilient. In this context, EU initiatives, such the rollout of 5G, ERTMS, TEN-T and the revision of the Technical Specifications of Interoperability (TSIs) are key to make rail the transport mode of the future. An important enabler in this sense is digitalisation which makes up more than half of the changes in the TSIs.
Another key enabler is the 4th RP and in particular its technical pillar2 which is delivered through the EU Agency for Railways. COVID has also illustrated the importance of seamless logistics flows and ERTMS is critical to ensure the rollout of a harmonized technology.
COVID also triggered political support for a European Network of Rail Passenger Corridors which will require more connectivity between rail and other modes.
Therefore, it is important that the next EU budget will put rail at its core.
The way forward
To conclude, investments in rail are key to make Europe green, digital and resilient. COVID has extrapolated the strengths and weaknesses of Europe and its transport modes. Rail proved that it delivered. It is important to turn the risks of COVID into an opportunity.
PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF
PUBLIC TRANSPORT (UITP)
CEO, FERROCARRILES DE LA GENERALITAT DE CATALUÑA
“We have a chance to bring cities back to people.
Public transport plays a key role in the economic, social and environmental recovery. #Better Mobility “.
The crisis generated by Covid-19 has had a major impact on public transport systems across many regions of the world. Public and private sector stakeholders have adopted all the necessary measures to guarantee service continuity, ensuring the mobility of essential front-line workers.
However, the health situation has powered a widespread and unsustainable fall in public transport ridership and associated farebox revenues of close to 90%, and the sector is now literally fighting to survive.
Climate, air quality and health, social inclusion, road safety and the economy are all under attack. Public transport, based on high-capacity rail modes, is a vital pillar for economic, social and environmental recovery, both in the short and long term.
No doubt, railway networks are the backbone of our cities and countries, facilitating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, leaving no one or no place behind. Fundamental pillars such as customer orientation, security and efficiency, supported by levers for improvement (innovation, digital transformation and strategic alliances, MaaS) are our key assets to recover cities for people.
In this context, at UITP we have launched the global campaign “Back to Better Mobility”, highlighting the benefits of courageous urban strategies, betting on public transport investments on a critical sector for the society and conveying a positive image of public transport.
THE INTERNATIONAL UNION OF RAILWAYS (UIC)
“The public must understand rail’s value to urban life.”.
How close collaboration across the transport family can spread best practice and keep mobility chains open UIC, as the technical platform for railway cooperation at world level, is the place of exchange for best practice, bringing together many networks of experts. On March, 5 2020, UIC has launched the Covid-19 Task Force. Since then, a series of UIC guidance documents have been released: https://uic.org/covid-19/
Our world is more interconnected than ever before in history, bringing new risks – most evident today is the increased possibility of pandemics manifested as the Covid-19 crisis that has disrupted all our lives. However, that challenge which we face was also in part caused by the deepening consequences of climate change.
For the transport sector, these two phenomena are closely linked. Mobility services provide the connectivity that enables increased trade and the ability of modern economies to create ever greater prosperity. Unfortunately, many available modes disproportionately generate greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) that have contributed to today’s disruptions. Unlike rail, unsustainable services are responsible for 22% of emissions that endanger natural ecosystems on which we depend on for our very lives, putting us in contact with novel pathogens.
However, rail and public transport are part of the solution. In Europe, rail accounts for 7.6% of passenger and 17.6% of freight transport, but only creates 0.5% of its GHG emissions. With regard to the average energy consumption, urban rail with its 0.12 kWh per passenger-km is 7 times more energy efficient than private cars in cities. Rail’s carbon footprint is significantly smaller than those of the other transport modes.
As we collectively rethink sustainable mobility, it is quintessential that transportation is not synonymous with individual vehicles. In order to do so, the public must understand rail’s value to urban life. Due to its higher capacity, its utilization can make cities less congested and less polluted, while maintaining a multimodal system that adequately and equally serves metropolises, conurbations and their surrounding regions.
“The EU must prioritise empowering rail to serve as the backbone for a decarbonised mobility system”.
During the last 3 months of the COVID-19 crisis, the world has been examining society to understand how it fell into this circumstance. This public health emergency has been in part caused and exacerbated by a concurrent one that may contribute to the rise of other pandemics: climate change. Just as rail has proven invaluable to COVID-19 crisis response due to its continued transportation of essential personnel and critical goods, our sector has the potential to make crucial contributions to global climate action initiatives.
As Europe’s – and the world’s – greenest mass mobility solution, the EU must make positioning and empowering rail to serve as the backbone for a decarbonised mobility system while it pursues the EU Green Deal and coronavirus recovery. This will require the mobilisation of considerable EU funds such as the 2021-2027 MFF, the Connecting Europe Facility and the newly announced “Next Generation EU” recovery supplement, the implementation of railway harmonisation legislation and definition of international trade expectations. Hopefully, Spain will ensure this through the swift transposition of the 4th Railway Package by 31 October 2020. Europe needs a truly single European rail area that makes use of sustainable, smart equipment, such as the “game changers” being researched and developed through the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking and continued under its successor. Additionally, EU companies must be able to interact with foreign competitors on a level international playing field to avoid a severe market contraction following COVID-19 and be on track to achieve its EU Green Deal objectives.
UNIFE commends the EC’s foresight in prioritizing sustainability and recognising it as a principle for economic growth in a maturing international economy. We urge all European institutions to emulate their holistic approach to these joint crises by empowering rail and its supply industry to act as the backbone of the sustainable, interoperable mobility paradigm of the future.