A European Commission official has told IRJ that no formal extension to the European Year of Rail to the end of 2022 is foreseen. However, the official says the commission is “ready to show openness” to organising some European Year of Rail activities in the first semester of 2022.

The EC praised the initiative for highlighting the benefits of rail as one of the most sustainable innovative and safest transport modes available. “Hence we are ready to show openness when it comes, for example, to organising some additional events in the first semester of 2022,” the official said.

The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) is the latest industry group to make the case to prolong the initiative following disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this week, UITP joined with European Metropolitan Transport Authorities (EMTA), European Passenger Transport Operators (EPTO), Polis Network, and European Passengers’ Federation (EPF) to issue an open letter calling for the EC, European Parliament and European Council to make 2022 a European Year of Rail and Public Transport.

“Expanding the current Year of Rail activities to public transport can be a chance to put current and potential new customers of all public transport systems at the centre of the activities,” the letter states.

“The sector could use the opportunities to re-assess customer interests, monitor current performance and advance both customer and environmentally friendly systems across all modes.”

The Rail Forum Europe (RFE) group of MEPs along with the Community of European Railways and Infrastructure Companies (CER), European Rail Industry Association (Unife), and European Infrastructure Managers (EIM) have also issued similar calls for an extension in the last few months.

Among the key initiatives of the European Year of Rail is the Connecting Europe Express, a special train that will visit 40 cities in 26 countries in 36 days, beginning its 20,000km journey in Lisbon on September 2 and concluding in Paris on October 7. The train will host special events and activities at all station stops, including conferences in five cities - Lisbon, Bucharest, Brdo, Berlin and Bettembourg - which will address the plans for rail outlined in the European Union’s (EU) Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.

However, with travel remaining restricted due to the pandemic, supporters of the extension say their efforts to promote rail are limited. Continuing the initiative into 2022 will enable them to maximise the opportunity to promote rail as a green and affordable transport solution, which the EC says is a priority in order to deliver the Green Deal objective of climate-neutrality by 2050.