Railway the only mode of transport reducing carbon emissions

Railway is a crucial part of the European Union environmentally-friendly policy. Year by year, the sector is gradually moving towards carbon neutrality by reducing its emissions. To unlock the full potential of railways, there is much work to do for both EU authorities and the Member States. Such opinion was expressed by CER Executive Director Libor Lochman at the online RailTech Infra Forum 2020.

“The European Green Deal is a collection of various components that are giving the push for the European economy to be environmentally-friendly and carbon neutral. There are, of course, elements that are essential for railways. The commitment to the decarbonisation is the principal key approach applicable to the mobility where the railway could be a solution. It is the only mode of transport, unlike all the others, that is reducing carbon emissions on a yearly basis,” Libor Lochman, Executive Director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), said in his speech at the RailTech Infra Forum 2020 on Wednesday, 16 June.

Set of goals

The mentioned potential of the railway is not enough. A set of goals is required to be implemented in order to achieve full decarbonisation by 2050. That’s why the EU Commission is developing the ‘Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy for Europe’ that will be unveiled this year. It will be in line with the Green Deal and will define a much greater role for railways. The next point is the creation of conditions to develop recharging infrastructure for the rolling stock powered from the alternative sources (batteries and hydrogen).

Libor Lochman, CER Executive Director
Libor Lochman, CER Executive Director, source: International Transport Forum / OECD

“At the first place, we should see the changed regulation regarding the alternative fuel infrastructure. There is a need to complete the directive that will provide a much better boost for the new alternative resources and renewables. We should also see the possibilities to enhance the investments into the recharging points for the alternative fuels,” Mr Lochman noted. Moreover, there could be implemented a range of initiatives for increasing the capacity of railways, stimulating the combined transport, improving the TEN-T regulation and more stringent standardisation of the combustion vehicles. “Obviously, the increase of capacity is an essential element, we will not be able to do this without digitalisation of infrastructure and services to that,” the CER Executive Director added.

CER’s input to Green Deal

CER, as the association representing the majority of rail business in Europe, has already proposed several key points to achieve the above-mentioned goals. The first point is an action plan for rail freight. The second item is related to standardisation and interoperability. “We will definitely need to improve cross-border interoperability. We need to have a single loading gauge, we need to enable longer trains, at least at a length of 740 metres, and we need to have an axle load of 22.5 tonnes,” Libor Lochman specified.

Two other points are dealt with road transport. On one side, there is a strong demand to improve connectivity between railways and roads, while, on the other side, both sectors should have equal opportunities. To this end, CER has been insisting on reviewing the Eurovignette Directive and introduction of tolling and external-cost charging on all major roads. Libor Lochman once more recalled for this and stressed the necessity to implement the polluter-pays and user-pays principles. The two last points refer to the financial side including the increase of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) budget and facilitation of private investments in rail projects. “This is what we have to continue doing,” Mr Lochman summarised.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

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