Europe has long benefited from a dense railway network and is the world leader in the supply of railway systems. Employing 1 million people in rail operations and another 250 000 in manufacturing, the European railway sector has a 60% share of the world market and an annual turnover of €95 billion.
Though it spends some €2 billion on research each year, more investment is needed to modernise rolling stock, exploit new business techniques and create intelligent integrated logistics systems, such as roll-on/roll-off interfaces, for Europe’s road and water-borne sectors. These are all targets of EU-funded research.
Rail transport offers a viable and competitive means of shifting more cargo traffic away from the continent’s crowded roads, thus improving traffic circulation and cutting vehicle-emitted pollution. The EU places particular emphasis on stimulating new investment in trans-European transport infrastructure such as rail, and its current Sixth and forthcoming Seventh Framework Programmes support research efforts to create new methods of interoperability, higher safety standards and the reduction of rail-related noise levels.
Building up steam: a single rail market
The EU’s recently launched MODTRAIN project brings together, for the first time, all the main European rail system manufacturers, sub-system suppliers and rail operators. Working towards interoperability of national rolling-stock systems and sub-systems, MODTRAIN offers a radical approach to rolling-stock construction. Its goal of reducing the number of single components in a railway carriage from 1 200 to 120 parts and cutting construction time by more than 50% should give a huge boost to the sector’s competitiveness.