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EYR 2021 conference at CoR  

​Role and importance of rail transport in the European regions. Building effective transport systems based on rail – 17 November 2021

Co-organised by the CoR, East Poland House and Polish rail operator PKP, the conference brought together local and regional authorities, sectoral stakeholders and EU institutions. The importance of close cooperation between all levels of governance and sectoral stakeholders for the shift to rail objectives set out under the EU Green Deal and in the context of the European Year of Rail 2021 (EYR 2021) was underscored from the outset by Marie-Antoinette MAUPERTUIS (FR/EA), second Vice-President of the CoR's COTER Commission. The focus on regional rail was particularly welcomed in particular by Alberto Mazzola, Executive Director of the Community of European Railways (CER), who called for regional rail to be more prominently addressed at EU level, recalling that most passenger rail journeys in the EU are made at local and regional level.

CoR members Jarosław STAWIARSKI (PL/ECR) and Marco Marsilio (IT/ECR) presented the experiences of their regions – as well as the challenges faced – in putting rail at the heart of regional transport systems as part of a decarbonised transport network and for improved territorial cohesion.

CoR rapporteur for the EYR 2021 Jarosław STAWIARSKI referred to the need for increased funding for regional rail investments and to create a more level playing field between the transport modes in order to consolidate a strong market position for rail, increase travel comfort and reduce journey times. He emphasised that while the infrastructure investments required for the modernisation of rail networks in certain regions may be significant, they are more than justified by the long-term economic and environmental gains. He commented " The future of transport is undoubtedly rail. In passenger transport, we need fast interregional rail services connecting the largest cities and the integration of railways with public transport systems in urban agglomerations. In freight transport, […] we need more combined transport using intermodal loading units and more economically competitive conditions to encourage the shift to more modern and less polluting freight transport."

CoR member Marco MARSILIO referred to the forthcoming review of the TEN-T and the critical importance of improved regional connectivity to the main trans-European corridors: "Only through more organic connectivity, both within and between European regions, will we be able to facilitate the circulation of goods and bridge the infrastructure gap". He also highlighted the potential of investments in regional rail as a lever for improved economic, social and territorial cohesion of the EU's regions: "Our task is to restore the competitiveness of our economy and improve the quality of life of our citizens".

For the European Commission, Mirosław Dybowski (DG REGIO) confirmed the critical role of LRAs in delivering infrastructure investments and called for more systematic territorial cooperation models to ensure joined-up service provision and end-to-end services to make rail an attractive alternative to car travel. Katarzyna Szyszko (DG MOVE) emphasised the importance of multi-modal ticketing solutions, noting the best-practice examples presented during the conference, including real-time data sharing. She also thanked the CoR for its active support during the EYR and for members' involvement in the Connecting Europe Express "living lab",

Picking up on the lessons learned from the Connecting Europe Express project, Elżbieta Ƚukaniuk, Member of Cabinet of Commissioner VALEAN, confirmed the urgency of completing both the TEN-T core and comprehensive networks by their respective deadlines (2030 and 2050), the need for improved intermodal solutions in the passenger and freight sectors, as well as the special attention still required for cross-border connections. She also highlighted the unprecedented financing opportunities available under the current range of EU funds and instruments, where the prioritisation of investments in digital and sustainable mobility solutions make rail one of the most directly eligible transport modes.

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