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image European Research News Centre > Transport > The research compartment
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image image image Date published: 28/08/02
  image The research compartment
RTD info 34
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  Apart from changes to the regulations and infrastructures, revitalising the railways requires a major research effort. The rail stakeholders - operators, industrialists and specialised research centres - represented by ERRAC (European Rail Research Advisory Council), set up on the initiative of Commissioner Philippe Busquin, share a common vision of the kind of rail sector they want to see in the year 2020. Philippe Renard, Director of Research and Technology with the SNCF, and President of ERRAC, explains.
   
     
   

Why was an initiative such as ERRAC necessary? Was rail research previously underdeveloped in Europe?

European rail research was perhaps insufficiently developed, but above all Europe was lacking in ambition for its railways. The founding of ERRAC was linked to the growing realisation that the rail option not only had a future but was indeed vital for Europe's transport policy. This thinking has now become a key element in the European Commission's strategy. But if the railways are to fulfil the desired role over coming decades then all the players ( operators, industrialists, universities and research institutes ( must engage in joint and effective research. Before a European Research Area for rail can become a reality there must first be a shared, long-term vision. ERRAC's mission is to launch this new approach.

ERRAC has published a Strategic Research Agenda. What are the priorities in meeting the challenges of rail transport?

The Agenda presents a vision of Europe's railways in 2020 and how research and technological innovation can help to realise it. We first identified five main lines of strategy: network interoperability, the promotion of intelligent mobility ( meaning all systems using information technology to improve service to passengers and carriers ( improved safety, progress on the environmental front, and research on innovative materials. From that point a number of major subjects requiring an across-the-board approach could be distinguished.

Take freight for example. We are not going to reverse the trend in market share without significant improvements in economic efficiency and quality of service, and that means innovating in fields such as line operation and management, train design, efficiency of maintenance systems, development of telemonitoring and all the applications based on information and communication technologies. Innovation in comparable fields is also necessary for passenger transport.

In another area, such as the environment, we must drastically reduce noise emissions, otherwise our trains are going to meet resistance due to the nuisance caused by increasing rail traffic. We must also promote modernisation and a more efficient infrastructure use.

Apart from these main lines of strategy, what concrete actions is ERRAC going to advocate? In particular, what do you expect from the new Framework Programme?

The next stage consists of translating these general directions into precise research priorities and thus fuelling the programmes of subsequent cycles. The call for expressions of interest in the Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development recently launched by the Commission is a means of taking stock of the players' wishes, in the long and short term. During this summer we are going to be able to translate ERRAC's relatively long-term objectives into short- and medium-term goals in the light of the interests expressed. That will enable us to set the priorities for action over the next two, five and ten years in a more considered and effective way.

The projected investment is impressive, especially in infrastructures. But is it realistic?

The stated ambitions for Europe's railways over the coming years do indeed suppose huge investment, in terms of capacity and interoperabilty. When you are moving trains through the Alps you are counting in billions of euro. Similarly, it is not possible to replace overnight all the existing equipment with that which meets the specifications of interoperability. We must move as fast as we can, but progressively, and all that depends on the funds that are required and/or allocated. Technical innovation will enable the European rail network to be competitive and to provide the general public and the economic players with the services they expect at the lowest cost, provided, that is, that Europe as a whole shares this vision and comes up with the money.


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ERRAC in the long and not so long term

ERRAC was set up in November 2001 as a forum for strategic reflection and high-level consultation. In addition to industrialists, rail operators and infrastructure managers, its members include representatives of national and European research programmes, user groups and environmental organisations. Its first mission was to draw up a Strategic Research Agenda to set the direction of European, national and private programmes.

The main goals to be achieved by 2020 are:

  • average speed of 150 km/hr for passenger traffic and 80km/hr for freight;
  • at least 95% punctuality;
  • 50% cost reduction;
  • doubling of capacity for lines and stations and for light rail systems;
  • 15 000 km of high-speed lines and 15 000 km of mainly freight lines;
  • new integrated networks (multimodal stations, freight on urban networks);
  • noise reduction to 69dB for freight and 83dB for high-speed trains;
  • 75% reduction in accident victims.

Contact

European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC)
lara.isasa@unife.org
Website

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A matter of money

Network size
The Union's rail network shrunk from 160 000 km to 153 600 km between 1990 and 1999 (- 4%). In the applicant Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs) it shrunk by 6% over the same period, to 65 000 km in 1999.
But the high-speed network is expanding, from just 285 km in 1981 to 2 347 km in 2000.

Rolling stock
In 1999 there were 34 454 locomotives and railcars (- 30%) and 523 400 freight wagons (- 65%).

Freight
With 241 billion tonnes per km transported in 1998 (compared with 283 in 1970), the market share of rail freight has fallen from 21.1% to 8.4%. In 1999, 1.3 million tonne-km of freight was transported per km rail in the EU countries and 2.5 million in the CEECs.

Passengers
Passenger traffic increased from 217 billion per km in 1970 to 290 in 1998, representing a fall in the actual rail market share from 10% to 6%. In 1999, there were 1.9 million passenger-km per km of rail in the EU compared with 0.7 million in the applicant CEECs.
In 2001, the annual increase in passenger traffic was 0.6% overall, but 7.8% for high-speed traffic (64 billion passenger-km). However, passenger traffic fell by 3.4% in the CEECs.

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Philippe Renard: 'Before the European Research Area for rail can become a reality there must first be a shared, long-term vision.'

Philippe Renard: ‘Before the European Research Area for rail can become a reality there must first be a shared, long-term vision.’

Sonometry test. Noise emissions by trains must be reduced drastically to comply with anti-noise standards.

Sonometry test. Noise emissions by trains must be reduced drastically to comply with anti-noise standards.
© SNCF – CAV –
SYLVAIN CAMBON

 


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