In all, 454 participants have responded to the call for both the open and reserved topics, of which a quarter is from small and medium-sized enterprises. Open calls are funded totally by the JU, while members have to supplement JU funding. The proposals will be evaluated in April and applicants will be informed about the outcome by mid-July. Some projects will start in summer 2016 and all of them will be underway by December.

"The application rate to the open calls should ensure that we have healthy competition in most of the topics," says Mr Keir Fitch, interim executive director of Shift2Rail. "We are confident that this will result in Shift2Rail funding excellent projects in all its innovation programmes."

Prof Andy Doherty, industry spokesman for Shift2Rail, added: "We are confident that the projects funded through this first round of calls will build upon and complement the work already launched under the Shift2Rail lighthouse projects, providing the necessary impulse to Shift2Rail activities so that we can meet our ambitious objectives of enabling a true step change to a yet higher performing customer-driven railway for Europe."

Shift2Rail will see €920m invested between 2014 and 2020 in railway research and innovation projects designed to improve the competiveness of the European railway industry. There will be annual calls for more projects up to 2020, and the JU will continue to 2024.

Shift2Rail was launched in 2015 with four lighthouse projects worth €52m:

  • In2Rail track and infrastructure project – 36 months
  • IT2Rail project to improve customer experience – 30 months
  • Roll2Rail rolling stock project – 30 months, and
  • Smart Rail freight project – 36 months.