Much progress has been made in the past year with fast connections, night trains and investments in the networks. But despite this, national borders in the EU are still major obstacles on the railways, says Dirk Flege, managing director of the German rail lobby club Allianz pro Schiene. “Cross-border rail travel should and can be much easier – for both passenger and freight transport.”

Last year was the European Year of Railways, but one year is not enough to turn the patchwork quilt that is the European railways today into a whole. If rail is the way to a climate-friendly future, then the EU should declare a decade of rail, says Dirk Flege, managing director of the German rail lobby club Allianz pro Schiene.

Electrification of borders

To expand the cross-border rail network, an EU funding programme for the electrification of border crossings and a political initiative by the federal government are needed to equip all railway border crossings with electric catenaries with neighbouring countries by 2030.

For fairer competition in the mobility market, the EU and the federal government should together end the disadvantage of rail customers compared to air passengers when it comes to VAT for international tickets.

Another point concerns fairer financing of infrastructure. Road traffic, unlike rail traffic in the EU, is not subject to tolls for the use of infrastructure. Allianz pro Schiene is in favour of introducing mandatory tolls for lorries and long-distance buses in the EU as well.

Digital Automatic Coupling

The organisation also welcomes the broad political support for projects such as digital automatic coupling (DAC) for freight wagons. DAC is the most important project for digitising rail freight transport and increasing its competitiveness. But Allianz Pro Schiene points out that there is still no financial support from the EU and the Member States for this costly conversion operation.

The booking of international train tickets is another point of attention. Consumers need a low-threshold system that makes it possible to buy tickets throughout the EU. Booking train tickets for travel in Europe should be as easy as booking airline tickets.

The Allianz Pro Schiene’s list of demands also includes: expanding the railway network across borders, making competition between different modes of transport fairer and using the European Commission’s Green Deal to strengthen the railways.

International long-distance trains are the topic of the third day (23 June) of the conference RailTech Europe 2022. How can cross-border traffic be improved? For more information and the speakers, visit the website. Mark Topal, Programme manager of the European DAC delivery programme, will speak on the first day (June 21), which is all about The Digital Railway.