Sustainable mobility: A change of model with new challenges for the sector


The transport sector is facing a stage of great changes, mainly motivated by the introduction of technology in mobility, by the need to move towards the decarbonisation of the economy and by the greater concentration of population in large cities and peri-urban areas. All these changes have driven a new concept of mobility, which goes beyond the traditional concept, -the movement of people or goods, between an origin and a destination-, and that includes those constraints, needs or motivations of individuals, placing the citizen and the user at the centre of the entire system.
As pointed out by the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda (MITMA), “the economic potential of the new mobility concept is great: in Spain, a significant increase in the areas of connectivity, electrification and electric car in GDP is expected in the next 10 years. In addition, the public authorities have a duty to fight for a sustainable and resilient transport system for future generations and to guarantee the daily mobility of people”.

Climate change
Transport accounts for 27% of the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions, but the roadmap, as set out in the European Green Deal, is to make this continent the first climate-neutral one by 2050. On this path, the railway, which emits up to 10 times less CO2 per capita than equivalent travel by road or plane, is called to be the protagonist of change, a sustainable response in terms of mobility, energy efficiency, resistance to crises and structuring of territories.

In the coming years, the main initiatives of the transport administrations will focus on achieving a greater transfer of road traffic to the railway. Due to its many environmental advantages, this mode of transport is called to be the backbone of decarbonised mobility and will be essential for the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 13 “Climate Action”.


The railway, key in mega cities

Large cities are undergoing a transformation in recent years, due to the increasing trend of population concentration in urban centres. Currently, and according to data from the World Bank, about 55% of the world’s population, 4.2 billion inhabitants, live in cities. A trend that is expected to continue in this dynamic. Not surprisingly, the forecasts are that by 2050 this urban population will double, and almost 7 out of 10 people will live in cities. In the case of Spain, and according to the same source, 80% of the Spanish population live in cities, and in 2050 it will already be 88%, according to the projections of the Population Division of the United Nations (UN).


One of the most important aspects of this new paradigm is urban mobility since public transport systems must adapt to a changing landscape where new modes of shared travel coexist and where the reduction of emissions has become a priority. The aim is to increase the standard of living of citizens and to reduce road traffic and congestion.

Ultimately, the challenge for megacities is to find a smart solution to ensure sufficient energy while producing low carbon emissions, and this is where the role of railway comes into play. Due to this decarbonised model, the railway will have an increasing weight, being one of the great challenges to take advantage of all the technological advances available to make it become the centre of shared mobility and a vital piece of the cities of the XXI century.

But it is also that the railway is not only the mode of transport most committed to the environment for its reduced emissions of polluting gases, but also for the efficiency in its capacity, that is, for its enormous capacity to transport people or goods with low impact on the environment. In addition, modern rolling stock is easily configurable and flexible to adapt to the expected demand in each case.

Improved user experience

The passenger has become the centre of the decisions of transport companies and railway operators. It is becoming increasingly important the design of a personalised proposal, consistent with the individual needs of the traveller, with real-time information, variety in the means of payment and additional service proposals that make the trip a complete experience, with a process that is pleasant, simple, intuitive, and fast from the starting point to the final destination.

The advancement of this concept continues, thanks to the incorporation of the most avant-garde technology and the constant work of the industry to improve this experience.

Towards smart mobility

The wide range of options for getting around cities (bicycles, shared cars, underground, trams, taxis, self-driving vehicles, etc.) has given way to a new concept, that of smart mobility. The great challenge is now focused on achieving an efficient integration of all of them which promotes the choice by passengers of public transport in detriment of the private vehicle. In the coming years, the railway will be the backbone of this flexible, efficient, and sustainable model towards which all technological efforts and investments in digital infrastructures and R&D are directed.

Within this realm of smart mobility, the goal is that within nine years there will be an integrated electronic multimodal ticketing system for passenger networks and a development of automation on a large scale.

100% accessible travel

The proposal of an efficient and competitive public transport compared to other modes involves adapting its infrastructures and facilities to all types of travellers.

The high capacity, convenience and comfort presented by the railway are its main advantages, but the concept of universal transport also implies that these networks can be fully accessible to people with reduced mobility.

A challenge in which work is being done to provide stations, rolling stock and signage according to the specific needs of this type of passenger and that make your trip 100% tailored from origin to destination.