The European Commission has announced that 2021 will be known as the European Year of Rail, according to an announcement published by the Commission.
To contribute to the European Union’s Green Deal goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050, a variety of activities will put rail at the center of attention. These activities will promote travel by rail as a sustainable, smart, and safe means of transport.
The main goal for promoting travel by rail will be to encourage people to use rail as their main means of transport to other Member States to cut-back on greenhouse gas emissions. Another main objective is to encourage industry professionals to use rail as a more prevalent means of transport for goods across Member States, for the same reason of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the announcement, rail accounts for less than 0.5% of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. Despite this, a very small minority of travel in the EU is accounted for by rail.
“In the EU, rail is responsible for less than 0.5% of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions,” the announcement reads. It continues, “Despite these advantages, only about 7% of passengers and 11% of goods travel by rail.”
On 1 January 2021, the Commission launched a website to promote the Year of Rail and give information about different events, programs, and the initiative itself.
The EU is attempting to promote rail as a means to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, a goal explicitly outlined in the European Green Deal.
To achieve this goal, the EU needs to achieve a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport industry, with accounts for 25% of Europe’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Part of this plan is to double rail freight and tripling high-speed rail connectivity by 2050.
In addition, the Commission will outline an action plan that will boost passenger rail traffic in the coming year. The plan will also include measures to make the ticketing and travel process more streamlined, in order to further add to the attractiveness of rail.
Although some might have felt that rail was a forgotten means of transport, governments in the EU have had different ideas and plan to make it the primary means of transport for people and goods.
“Our future mobility needs to be sustainable, safe, comfortable and affordable. Rail offers all of that and much more! The European Year of Rail gives us the opportunity to re-discover this mode of transport. Through a variety of actions, we will use this occasion to help rail realize its full potential. I invite all of you to be part of the European Year of Rail,” said Adina Vălean, European Commissioner for Transport.
The Commission had originally proposed that 2021 become the ‘Year of Rail’ in March 2020. It was only recently ratified and adopted in Parliament and the European Council in December 2020.