Speaking at the opening session of the ninth World Congress on Railway Research (WCRR) in Lille, France, Mr Zoltan Kazatsay, deputy director-general of the EC's Directorate General for Mobility and Transport, says that rail research is at the heart of this strategy. Among the developments the White Paper calls for is the tripling of the European high-speed network along with the connection of all major airports to the rail network. Both objectives are to be achieved by 2050 to enable all medium-length journeys to be taken by rail rather than air.

In terms of freight, the EC wants railfreight to become the backbone of European freight transport. Specifically, by utilising the nine primary European freight corridors that will be in place in the next few years, the aim is to shift 30% of road freight to rail and water by 2030 and 50% by 2050.

"The EC wants to promote rail as the preferred mode of transport because of the reasons of sustainability, safety and its potential to carry huge numbers of passengers and freight," Kazatsay says. "To achieve this, the organisation set measures to encourage open markets and sufficient infrastructure improvements."

Advances in research are considered crucial for these goals to become reality. Kazatsay points to the recent establishment of the European Railway Agency as reflecting the future need to develop the infrastructure required to support more traffic. However, the constraints placed on progress by the long lifespan of rolling stock and infrastructure should be considered in future developments. "Past technologies might not be able to support the solutions being developed today," he says. "For this reason future technologies need to be compatible."