THE European Commission (EC) has again been asked to extend the 2021 European Year of Rail until December 2022, this time by the Rail Forum Europe (RFE) group of MEPs, due to concerns over the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a letter to EC commissioner for transport, Ms Adina Vălean, dated June 21, the European Parliament association said: “we are witnessing with concern the difficulties in unleashing the full potential of activities to promote rail, due to current sanitary context.

This letter follows similar extension calls in April from the heads of Community of European Railways and Infrastructure Companies (CER), European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM) and the European Rail Industry Association (Unife) in in a joint letter sent to the presidents of the European Parliament, EU Council and European Commission.

“When in the course of 2020 the EU decided to dedicate 2021 to celebrate railways, nobody could foresee that the pandemic would last this long, with the ongoing effects everybody can see today,” the RFE letter states.

The signatories argue that while the vaccination roll out across Europe is accelerating, the effort to promote rail has been affected by the pandemic. The continued situation means organising in-person events and other public gatherings for the first half of this year has not been possible.

“The European Year of Rail is a unique opportunity to showcase rail and its key contribution to EU citizens and business, and to a smart, digital and sustainable mobility system that reconciles performance and reduction of CO2 emissions,” RFE argues.

The letter was signed by Mr Andrey Novakov MEP, president of Rail Forum Europe, Ms Anna Deparnay-Grunenberg MEP, vice-president of the association, and Mr Istvan Ujhelyi MEP, vice-president of the association.