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Advocating for urban rail investment: UITP, UNIFE and the European Committee of the Regions hold joint Conference  

Addressing the challenges and opportunities linked to any major sector always requires a collaborative effort. By joining forces with public transport colleagues, we can consider what is necessary to place urban mobility on top of the agenda.

Urbanisation was the objective, notably emissions and congestion, as UITP, UNIFE and the European Committee of the Regions held a joint Conference (Brussels, 11 September 2019) to consider the ways in which urban and regional rail projects could help solve these issues.

Led by opening remarks from the European Committee of the Regions President Karl-Heinz Lambertz, Deputy Director of UITP’s European Department Annika Stienen and Philippe Citroën, Director General of UNIFE, esteemed sector colleagues gathered to hold a spirited discussion on funding and finance for urban rail transport in European.

With an audience including UITP Secretary General Mohamed Mezghani and Deputy Director of UITP Europe Artur Perchel, the opening political address also heard from Mikael Nyberg, Director-General of the Finnish Transport and Communications Ministry, on several important sectoral topics making waves, such as data sharing, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and unlocking the green potential of urban rail through more tailored financing.

Proceedings, moderated by Jacqueline Spuijbroek, EU Regional Representative Zuid-Holland, continued with an expert viewpoint on urban mobility from Alan O’Brien of JASPERS, the Joint Assistance to Support Projects in European Regions from the European Investment Bank, on how to better prepare the ground and build the case for sustainable urban rail systems which stand the test of time.

The significant economic, environmental and social benefits to developing urban mobility are numerous – and investment is always needed to meet these challenges head on.

Understanding how the new regional development and cohesion policy beyond 2020 can contribute to achieving a greener, carbon-free, and fully-connected Europe, was the topic for the panel session which followed.

With 2021-2027 best practices and prospects considered, panellists including Ciaran Cuffe, MEP and TRAN member o, Wojciech Bartelski, CEO of Warsaw Trams as well as Keir Fitch and Vincent Leiner representing DG REGIO and DG MOVE respectively, focused on the different funding lines available and how to best deliver a sustainable urban mobility system fit for the future.

CoR rapporteur Pascal Mangin, who is currently drafting an opinion on "The potential of the rail sector in delivering EU policy priorities", underlined that the rail sector not only secures decarbonisation of urban transport but that European railways and associated industries also support other major EU policy priorities as enablers of growth and jobs which foster economic and social cohesion within the Union.

The Conference closed with lively Q&A sessions and solid support for the need to ensure sustainable and targeted investments in a strong, European urban rail sector.

As discussions regarding the next financial framework continue, the importance of providing solutions enabling people to move in and around cities with ease should be always be at the heart of any discussion on both urban investment and spatial planning more broadly.

With mobility in mind, UITP Secretary General Mohamed Mezghani and European Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz used the occasion of the Conference to jointly sign UITP’s

Mobility Manifesto

encouraging all European decision makers to place #MobilityOnTop of the political agenda.