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European Year of Rail 2021: Shining a light on Europe's most sustainable transport mode and its challenges  

​The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) adopted in its October plenary an opinion on the "European Year of Rail 2021", calling for an EU-wide strategy to encourage investment and reduce disparities and gaps in rail systems. Rapporteur Jarosław Stawiarski (PL/ECR), Marshal of Lubelskie Region, will also present the CoR's suggestions in a workshop, which will bring together top representatives of the European rail sector on 20 October as part of the European Week of Regions and Cities 2020.

Rail is one of the most sustainable, energy-efficient and safest forms of transport. It is six times more energy-efficient than road transport and emits nine times less CO2 than road freight and air passenger transport. At the same time, the rail sector contributes significantly to the European economy and the EU single market. As such, rail will pay an important role in the future European mobility system, says Jarosław Stawiarski, rapporteur on the opinion on the "European Year of Rail 2021".

"Rail means better accessibility of regions and mobility of society, economic development and cutting emissions. Modern transport must not only be fast, safe, convenient and ecological, but also, as the events of recent months related to the COVID-19 pandemic show, resistant to new crises. The European rail system proves that it meets all these conditions", said Jarosław Stawiarski, President of the Lubelskie Region.

The rapporteur nevertheless highlights the differences in infrastructure development and quality between Central and Eastern European countries and the rest of the EU. Allocations under the new Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and other EU instruments will have a decisive role to play in helping regions across the EU in their efforts to support the clean transport objectives of the Green Deal and reduce disparties. The opinion also calls for further investment in the expansion of regional networks as well as in the modernisation of existing lines and rolling stock fleets, highlighting the relevance of financial support for innovation, digitalisation and intermodal facilities.

Marshal Stawiarski further urges EU institutions and national authorities to level the playing field between the different modes of transport by factoring in negative externalities on the environment in line with the polluter pays principle. The CoR therefore supports the European Citizens' Initiative Fairosene calling for taxation of aviation fuel and the application of VAT exemptions for cross-border rail as already exists for aviation.

The European Committee of the Regions welcomes the upcoming European Year of Rail as a good occasion to promote rail as an environmentally friendly, innovative and safe mode of transport. "I am convinced that by actively involving all interested parties in the European Year of Rail 2021, we will achieve significant progress towards improving the European Union's railway system", said rapporteur Jarosław Stawiarski.

In anticipation of the European Year of Rail in 2021, the workshop "Smart Rail for the EU's Green Recovery" on 20 October from 9:30-11:00 CET will provide the opportunity for Marshal Stawiarski and COTER Chair Isabelle Boudineau  (FR/PES) to convey the CoR's messages to some of the top representatives of the European rail sector. You can follow the event live on the webTV of the European Week of Regions and Cities 2020.

Further information:

Interview with Jarosław Stawiarski: "Rail is key to decarbonise the transport sector and contribute to the EU's green recovery"​

Carmen Schmidle
Tel. +32 (0)494 735787