Transport modes


Rail is fundamental for sustainable transport in a low-carbon Europe. It is also essential for fair economic growth and social opportunities.


The European rail system is facing critical challenges:

  • railways must play a significant role in meeting future transport demands,
  • the rail sector must grow while adapting to increasingly reduced public finances

It is essential to develop an appropriate innovation strategy which goes beyond just technological improvements and can deliver both reliability and a quality product.


Passengers and freight are the two major markets of rail transport.

Innovation effort should focus on delivering radical improvements in the European rail system by developing new technology which can address issues which hamper rail services, passengers, freight and operations.

Passengers: There must be further research to improve the user experience. It is necessary to develop products and services that entice passengers to choose rail over other less sustainable modes of transport.

Freight: Optimising the performance of logistic-chains which use more than one mode of transport and increasing the efficiency of rail infrastructure systems can move freight transport towards rail over other modes of transport.


There are bodies and organisations that support the European Union and work jointly with it to innovate in the rail sector.

Shift to Rail Joint Technology Undertaking is a partnership between the EU and the private sector dealing with rail.

European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC) represents the rail stakeholders supporting the EU in the definition of research innovation strategy for the rail sector in Europe.

Success Stories

SUSTRAIL: A successful example of sustainable freight railway

Transport costs affect the price of goods we buy. Reducing these costs can keep more money in our pockets. Researchers see the freight industry as very conservative. In the past, ambitious innovations were not adopted.

That is why this project focuses on ready-to-use technologies that do not require much change in the existing rail depots.

More about Sustrail


MARATHON: A successful example of technologies allowing operators to run longer trains while ensuring safety

Running longer and heavier freight trains along Europe’s extensive rail network will save operators money, relieve congestion and help cut emissions. It will help domestic manufacturers transport their goods more easily, and by extension lead to cheaper European-made products in supermarkets.

The EU-funded Marathon project team test-ran the first 1.5km freight train from Lyon to Nîmes, France, carrying a maximum load of some 4,000 tonnes and reaching a top speed of just over 100 km/h. The revolution in rail technology has begun.

More about Marathon