IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE - The information on this site is subject to a disclaimer and a copyright notice
Banner Research
  European Commission   > Research > Growth
Homepage Competitive and Sustainable Growth - Making the European Research Area a Reality
Graphic element
Graphic element
Graphic element
Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Mobility and intermodality projects > Getting the European railways back on track
Graphic element Getting the European railways back on track

A more competitive railway system is a precondition for more efficient European railways. This requires interoperability to allow different operators to compete over the same tracks. The European Commission has financed substantial research in this area. Several projects have recently been completed and the results are now available on the Commission's web site.

Compared to road transport, railway transport is a safer and more environmentally friendly means of transport. Thus, railway transport has high priority in the EU's Common Transport Policy. Nevertheless, the proportion of goods transport by rail is decreasing while the proportion of goods transport by road is increasing.

Railway interoperability means the ability of railway operators to provide services across national borders and across technical, physical, geographical, legislative, organisational and socio-economic barriers.

Some of the most important research in this area concerns the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). The ERTMS is a system under development, and comprises three elements: signalling, telecommunications and traffic management. The EU has financed a number of projects with the objective of implementing, testing and validating a harmonised ERTMS.

This has included harmonising rules and regulations to obtain e.g. a common level for safety. Other research has developed an overall system architecture for railway signalling and made a specification of all interfaces that need to be standardised in order to ensure interoperability.

Two ongoing projects are testing the ERTMS concept. One pilot project is setting up a full-scale test in a number of pilot cities in France, Italy and Germany to test different system and sub-system specifications as well as an overall safety concept. The other pilot project is the establishment of a pilot installation of the ERTMS on the Vienna - Budapest line, to demonstrate the performance of a new European train control system.

Revitalising the European railways is an important issue in the Policy Guidelines of the White Paper on a common transport policy, recently published by the Commission. The Commission proposes further opening up of the market, supported by measures to restore the credibility of the railways in terms of regularity and punctuality. A network of railway lines dedicated exclusively to freight services is also envisaged, following the recommendations of research into this concept.

More information

More information on EU research in rail interoperability can be found on the European Commission's web site:


  Further Information and Notes to Editors


The transport research programme forms part of the Fourth Framework Programme, which set out the activities to be launched by the European Community in the field of Research and Technological Development (RTD) between 1994 and 1998.

The transport programme focused on helping to achieve the objectives of the Community's Common Transport Policy (CTP), namely efficient and cost-effective transport networks for goods and passengers while minimising both energy consumption and the social and environmental impacts of transport. The Commission has contributed ECU 270 million Euro to the programme, with further funding (often 50%) coming from project partners and their sponsors.

The transport programme has financed around 280 projects within seven main areas of research: strategic research; rail transport; air transport; waterborne transport; road transport; urban transport; and integrated transport chains. The programme was set up by the former DGVII (Transport), and is now managed by the Directorate-General for Energy and Transport. Altogether 21 projects and concerted actions were commissioned on rail transport research, with a total EU contribution of 40 million Euro.

Under the Fifth Framework Programme, which started up in 1999, transport policy research is based around themes rather than transport modes. The work is covered by the Key Action "Sustainable Mobility and Intermodality", and the European Commission expects to contribute 370 million Euro.
Other transport-related RTD is carried out elsewhere in the Fifth Framework programme - covering such topics as aeronautics, urban development, and new vehicle and information technologies.

The transport programme can only achieve its objectives if project results are effectively disseminated to people who can use them - notably policy-makers, planners, industry and the research community.

Therefore the Commission has funded a project specifically aimed at disseminating information on the transport programme as a whole, supplementing the more limited efforts of each project. The aim is to use cost-effective means of communication to specific audiences in the EU and in Central and Eastern Europe.

The project (called EXTRA, EXploitation of TRAnsport research) has developed an Internet site (, opened an Information Bureau and provides complementary activities (newsletters, events) to raise awareness of the programme.

The Information Bureau can be contacted by telephone:
+ 44 (0) 1235 46 42 46,
by fax: + 44 (0) 1235 43 65 51
or by e-mail to:

It provides printed copies of information on the web site, as well as helping with more general enquiries on transport research. A handy web site user guide is provided on request.

Users are encouraged to register with the Bureau to receive monthly e-mail bulletins announcing the latest information on the web.

The next few months should see a large increase in the volume of results. Analyses will be provided on the contribution of research in developing key policy areas.

See also
Website reveals research results on sustainable mobility

More information

Further Information and Notes to Editors

Homepage Graphic element Top of the page