THE heads of the Community of European Railways and Infrastructure Companies (CER), European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM) and the European Rail Industry Association (Unife) have issued a joint letter to the presidents of the European Parliament, EU Council and European Commission (EC) calling for an extension to the European Year of Rail until the end of 2022.
While enthusiastic supporters of the initiative, the associations say their collective efforts to promote the European Year of Rail are jeopardised by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the uncertainties it is causing.
“There is a very concrete risk that upcoming scheduled events will have to be postponed until the situation improves or just cancelled and that the allocated of resources will be spent in vain - something we can ill afford at a time when railways are suffering huge losses because of Covid-19,” the associations say.
“Against this background, we call on all the EU Institutions and on member states to extend the European Year of Rail until December 2022 in order to make the best out of this important opportunity and give this valuable initiative the best chances of success.”
The letter is addressed to Mr David Maria Sassoli, president of the European Parliament; Mr Charles Michel, president of the European Council; Mrs Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission; Mr Frans Timmermans, first executive vice-president of the European Commission for the European Green Deal; and Mrs Adina-Loana Vălean, European Commissioner for Transport.
The European Year of Rail was officially launched during an online event hosted by the Portuguese presidency of the EU Council and the European Commission Directorate-General for Mobility on March 29.
A key initiative of the programme is the Connecting Europe Express (CEE), a special train that will commence a five-week transcontinental journey from Lisbon, visiting 25 member states including Slovenia, which is set to hold the presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2021, concluding the journey in Paris with France set to hold the presidency in the first half of 2022. The start of the train’s journey has already been pushed back from June to September and there are fears that other planned initiatives will be disrupted.
EIM members are already planning specific events in their countries to promote the initiative and to support the CEE. Unife and its members have prepared a communications campaign covering 12 themes which will run throughout 2021. National railways and operators have also started planning numerous national communication campaigns highlighting rail as the most sustainable mode of transport and the safest mobility option.
The signatories of the letter are: Mr Andreas Mättha, CER chair and CEO of Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB); Mr Gorm Frimannslund, EIM chair and CEO of Norwegian infrastructure manager, Bane Nor; Mr Henri Poupart-Lafarge, chairman of Unife and Alstom chairman and CEO; Mr Alberto Mazzola, CER executive director; Ms Monika Heiming, EIM executive director; and Mr Philippe Citroën, Unife director general.
Copies of the letter were also sent to Ms Karima Delli MEP, chair of the European Parliament committee on transport and tourism; Ms Anna Deparnay-Grunenberg MEP; Mr Pedro Nuno Santos, Portugal’s minister of planning and infrastructure; Mr Jernej Vrtovec, Slovenia’s minister of infrastructure; Mr Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, French transport minister; and Mr Karel Havlíček Czech deputy prime minister, minister of industry and trade, and minister of transport.