The backbone of modal change

wind turbines in Oiz eolic park. Basque Country


Europe is moving towards a sustainable future. An objective for which it has approved the European Green Deal. It consists of a plan that includes 50 concrete actions to combat climate change and that aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent in 2050. Prior to that date, the European authorities have set out to reduce emissions associated with transport by 90%, as they account for a quarter of the total. Of this figure, according to the European Environment Agency, in 2017 the railway accounted for only 0.5% of these emissions compared to 71.7% of road, 13.9% of aircraft and 13.3% of maritime traffic.

The Green Deal places, for the first time, the environmental and climate agenda at the highest level. The agreement wants to bring together the development and the economy with the care for the planet and to achieve a more efficient and less polluting model of society.

This guide includes the different actions that will be taken to drive an efficient use of resources through the transition to a clean and circular economy, the restoration of biodiversity and the reduction of pollution. In addition, it collects the investments required to implement these initiatives, as well as the funding tools available, and it explains how to ensure a fair and inclusive transition.

Key actions
To be a climate-neutral economy by 2050, action will be taken across all sectors by investing in environmentally friendly technologies, supporting all industries, including the railway industry, to promote innovation and the deployment of cleaner and cheaper public and private transport systems. In addition, the aim will be to move towards the improvement of global environmental regulations. The European Commission will rely on the Just Transition Mechanism to achieve the target of a green economy and it will designate at least 100 billion EUR by 2027 to this end. These funds will be used in those regions, industries and workers most affected by change and which face the greatest challenges.

The new green growth strategy sets mobility as one of the key aspects of the clean transition. It is about implementing a profound change in the current form of travel, with a commitment to a collective and electrified transport, since it is the most efficient and least aggressive route in terms of emissions.

To this end, the aim is to reduce road traffic by 75% by transferring to other modes, such as the railway. In this area, the Green Deal is based on four points: to achieve more sustainable travel, to be governed by the principle of “polluter pays” in any mode of transport, to promote connectivity and accessibility of all citizens and to work on the implementation of alternative and sustainable solutions.

This new scheme attaches particular importance to automated and connected multimodality, as it is considered that systems and infrastructures will need to adapt to reduce congestion and pollution, especially in urban areas. To this end, it has been announced that work will be done on the development of “intelligent traffic management systems and mobility solutions” and on the incorporation of clean vehicles and alternative fuels.

In this sense, digital transformation will also contribute to boost mobility as a service, promoting the use of shared and more efficient transport.

As recently announced by the European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen, the package of concrete measures to increase the capacity of railway networks will be proposed by the EU Executive by 2021.

2021, European Year of the Railway

The weight given to railway transport highlights the initiatives being carried out to stress the importance of promoting its development in a sustainable way. In this regard, it should be noted that the European Commission has proposed that 2021 be the “European Year of the Railway”.

This initiative aims to contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the European Green Deal in the field of transport. During the next fiscal year, events, campaigns and initiatives will be carried out that will promote the railway as a sustainable, innovative and safe mode of transport. Moreover, according to the Commission, “it will highlight its benefits to people, the economy and the climate, and it will focus on the remaining challenges to create a true single European railway area without borders”. It will also serve to highlight other key issues such as the Shift2Rail programme, the revision of the TEN-T Regulation or the Fourth Railway Package.

This date has been chosen because 2021 “will be the first full year in which the rules agreed under the Fourth Railway Package will be applied throughout the Union”. It is also considered the best option, as next year marks several important anniversaries for the railway as the 20th anniversary of the first railway package, the 175th anniversary of the first railway link between two EU capitals (Paris-Brussels), the 40th anniversary of the TGV and the 30th anniversary of ICE. The road to the sustainable future lies in boosting the railway in the coming years. This is work which has already involved institutions, transport administrations, operators and the wide range of companies that make up the value chain of the sector.