The document, which was presented at the European Rail Awards, which was hosted in Brussels by the Community of European Railways and Infrastructure Managers (CER) and the European Railway Industry Association (Unife), aims to show where the European Rail sector could be by 2050. It takes account of the recommendations put forward in the European Commission's 2011 White Paper on Transport and sets out ways to "orient and guide" the railway sector as well as policy makers and other stakeholders to enable the innovation and investment on which sustainable mobility depends to flourish in Europe.

At the heart of the document is the aim of delivering a business-led vision for the sector, as well as outlining how rail will meet the challenges of the modern-era, and the role rail should play in developing Europe as a global region.

The document also identifies a number of business challenges currently facing rail, such as that from other modes, and climate change, and makes a commitment to address these by issuing "high-level" goals. These include achieving value for money, and strong performance which is consistent across all networks, as well as high standards of safety and security, sufficient capacity and connectivity, sustainable development, and regard for people.

Each of these areas are addressed by outlining the improvements and developments required in terms of policy, technology and services, while the question of securing the required investment is emphasised in a dedicated section. Here the document outlines the importance of the role rail industry leaders must play in securing essential and continual investment in the sector by acting "determinedly and collaboratively across functional and territorial boundaries."

The document recognises the importance of research to achieve these goals, particularly following the shift to private sector-oriented research and development, and highlights the Shift2Rail initiative, a joint technology initiative which aims to boost rail-related research, as a key tool in overcoming future R&D challenges. The endorsees hope that this initiative will provide a useful focus for the development of future innovation in the EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020 which could either be through direct projects or via the European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC) and its RailRoute 2050 and Fosterrail projects.

As well as CER, Unife and ERRAC, the document is endorsed by the European railway industry's leading representative bodies, including:

• European Freight and Logistics Leaders Forum (F&L)

• European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM)

• European Passengers Federation (EPF)

• European Passenger Train and Traction Operating Lessors' Association (EPTTOLA)

• European Rail Freight Association (ERFA)

• European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC)

• European Shippers' Council (ESC)

• International Private Wagon Owners Union (UIP)

• International Public Transport Association (UITP)

• International Union of Railways (UIC)

The bodies agree that rail will continue to play a pivotal role in developing a competitive and environmentally-friendly transport system. And with the industry possessing the flexibility to adapt to future challenges, further modal shift is expected, with Challenge 2050 set to "provide the launchpad for the future."