European Year of Rail failed to gain traction, new report says
The European Year of Rail 2021 has had little immediate impact on the general public, a new report by Dutch advisory firm Berenschot published in February says. It did, however, raise the profile of rail travel among politicians and other policymakers.
The European Year of Rail largely took place outside the spotlights, save for the Climate Train to the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. As such, and for a lack of tangible results, the immediate impact of the initiative remains difficult to assess, the Berenschot report states. The European Year of Rail primarily seems to have been an impetus for accelerating existing initiatives, such as cooperation among European infrastructure managers.
Additionally, the outlook for international ticketing and improving air-rail connections seem to have improved. The report points to several countries that have moved to limit short-haul domestic flights, such as France and Austria. Lawmakers in other EU-member states, including Germany and Spain, have proposed similar legislation.
With regard to tickets for international travel, the reports cites the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) showing considerable ambition on that point as evidence for an improved outlook. Whether the CER will be able to act upon its ambitions, remains a different matter altogether, the report cautions.
European Year of Rail initiative insufficient
In December, German transport association Allianz pro Schiene also labelled the European Year of Rail as something of a mixed bag. While the association lauded the progress made on faster connections, night trains and the overall level of investment, more work needs to be done in order to facilitate continent-wide cross-border connections.
“National borders in the EU are still major obstacles”, said managing director Dirk Flege. “A European Year of the Rail is not enough to fully eliminate the patch work that is the European railway network”.
I don’t think it is the borders that are blocking but simply the national culture of each historical railway company. The mission that governments give to their railways is to look after national mobility, paid for by national taxes. This is the crux of the problem. Other issue is the use of national APIs in digital ticketing, and the pride of the public operators in having created “their” IT design. Obviously incompatible with others. The dutch OV-chipkaart does not work in Berlin or Paris.
A tragic example of non-functioning cross-border traffic is the hourly service Hengelo(NL) – Bad Bentheim – Bielefeld. Since it started 4 or 5 years ago Keolis has shown no interest in the Dutch part. When a train is delayed it is limited to the German section and returns to Bielefeld. If there are not enough trains or drivers,the trains only run in Germany. After being disappointed for 5 times in 1 year I avoid this route to cross the border. Other services to Germany don’t have these problems.