Under Shift2Rail, the EC will more than triple its funding of railway research to €450m between 2014 and 2020 compared with €155m for the previous period. This will be matched by €470m from the railway industry. Manufacturers Alstom, Ansaldo STS, Bombardier, CAF, Siemens, and Thales together with infrastructure managers Network Rail in Britain and Trafikverket in Sweden have already pledged €270m.

Shift2Rail has ambitious targets as it is aimed at reducing railway life-cycle costs by 50%, doubling capacity, and increasing reliability by up to 50%. By doing this, the EC believes rail can increase its share of passenger transport, which has remained fairly constant at 6%, and reverse rail's decline in freight market share which has dropped from 11.5% in 2000 to 10.2% today.

The research under Shift2Rail will focus on five areas:

  • developing a new generation of high-capacity trains
  • developing intelligent traffic management and control systems
  • providing reliable, high-quality infrastructure while at the same time reducing track noise, cutting costs, and developing intelligent maintenance
  • providing integrated ticketing and journey planners using innovative IT, and
  • improving logistics and intermodal freight.

Shift2Rail will the pool resources of virtually all railway suppliers to accelerate the development of new technologies and bring them to market, while operators and infrastructure managers will try to ensure that research is aimed at providing what they need.

Mr Siim Kallas, the EC's vice-president responsible for transport, says rail needs to innovate if it is to carry more passengers and freight. "This public private partnership is a major breakthrough, it will drive innovation to reduce the costs of rail services, increase capacity and provide more reliable, frequent rail services for customers," says Kallas.

"Shift2Rail will bring together on a large scale for the first time in our history, industry, railway undertakings, urban operators, infrastructure managers, SMEs and research centres/academia from all over the European Union to solve our collective transport challenges," says Mr Philippe Citroën, director general of the European Rail Industry Association (Unife), which is coordinating the project.