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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
- 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
- new integrated networks (multimodal stations, freight
on urban networks);
- noise reduction to 69dB for freight and 83dB for
- 75% reduction in accident victims.
European Rail Research Advisory
matter of money
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.
In 1999 there were 34 454 locomotives and railcars (-
30%) and 523 400 freight wagons (- 65%).
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.
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.