Visions of Rail
Challenge 2050: The Rail Sector Vision

By Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), European Infrastructure Managers (EIM) and International Union of Railways (UIC)

In collaboration with a significant number of stakeholder groups, on 26 February 2013 the European rail sector launched its pan-sector long term vision for rail. Entitled Challenge 2050, this is the European rail sector’s shared perception of where the rail system could be by 2050. Challenge 2050 sets out 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 in Europe depends. The document takes account of the European Commission’s 2011 White Paper on Transport but also identifies a significant set of business challenges and makes a commitment to addressing them.

 Download the Challenge 2050, The Rail Sector Vision
 Download the Challenge 2050's Supporting Paper

RAIL ROUTE 2050: the sustainable backbone of the Single European Transport Area


There is an urgent need for action to increase the capacity of railway network that can then help enable effective modal shift towards rail which has such potential to support a low carbon economy. Railway transportation will also need to develop its attractiveness and competitiveness to meet that potential.

An initial update of the ERRAC vision for the future of rail, projecting it to 2050, is provided here, addressing the European effort required for research and innovation to achieve this common ambition. This will require streamlined investment from frontier, applied/focused research, development and demonstration to real market uptake, supported by both investment as well as by aligned complementary legislation.

The European vision for railway research and innovation outlined here illustrates the research pillars that need to be supplemented by the corresponding investment pillar. Complementing these is the legislation pillar necessary to provide fair market conditions. The combination has the potency to transform rail into the low carbon natural transport mode of choice in the middle of the 21st Century.

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The Rail Journey to 2020

By Amadeus, 2013

Amadeus has compiled the most extensive report to date on the European rail industry which aims to inform the debate on how seamless, cross-border, high speed rail services across Europe can become a reality. The study highlights the key trends and drivers affecting the evolution of cross-border passenger rail travel through the period, informed by careful research, robust data and statistics analysis and best practice modelling. The report provides a detailed picture of the European passenger rail industry, identifying a major opportunity for rail operators in France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Britain, Spain and throughout Europe striving to improve the efficiency of the continent’s travel system. The study reports on factors that will shape the evolution of the passenger rail industry, its market share, and its relationships with other modal providers, providing a baseline scenario, built around trends, to size the business potential for the European passenger rail network in 2020.

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Moving towards Sustainable Mobility: European Rail Sector Strategy 2030 and beyond

UIC and CER, 2010

“Moving towards Sustainable Mobility: European Rail Sector Strategy 2030 and beyond” was jointly agreed and endorsed by members of UIC and CER in December 2010 to provide a unified approach to environmental and sustainability topics in the European rail sector. It outlines how the rail sector should be performing in environmental terms in 2030 and 2050, and provides a framework that allows companies in the rail sector to make suitable long-term plans. The strategy is built on four key environmental topics: climate protection, energy efficiency, exhaust emissions, and noise emissions. It sets out specific objectives for the rail sector to meet by 2030, and as uncertainties make predictions for the longer timeframe of 2050 more difficult, more general “visions” for 2050. This summary document outlines the objectives and vision statements.

 Download Moving towards Sustainable Mobility: European Rail Sector Strategy 2030 and beyond
 Download Moving towards Sustainable Mobility: European Rail Sector Strategy 2030 and beyond presentation by Joachim Kettner

Our Railway’s Future

By Tim O’Toole and Rick Haythornthwaite

Forum for the Future worked with Network Rail to develop scenarios which imagined the future of the UK railway. These were developed as creative stimulus for a series of public engagement workshops in early 2012. Three scenarios were developed: (1) "City hubs": The railway is in good shape – with good connections across the country, (2) "Local communities": For many people more working from home and less travel and (3) "London - global hub": Economic growth has been modest.

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Rail training 2020. Training needs and offers in the European railway area the next 10 - 15 years

By Danish Technological Institute (DK); CAS (UK); Lloyds Register Rail Europe B.V. (NL), 2007

European railways are facing fundamental legal, technological, demographic and market changes that need to dealt with in the coming years. The creation of a European Railway Area through the integration of national rail systems is based on increased interoperability. This is also a question of compatible national staff requirements and standards permitting seamless cross border train operations. The European train driver-licensing regime is an important step in this direction.

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A vision for Rail Standardisation in Europe

Position paper by CER and UIC, 2013

This paper is a reflection on the current framework within which rail standardisation is undertaken today, highlights a number of points of concern and sets out some possible remedies. tandardisation is recognised essential to facilitate cross border operations, to increase system efficiency, maintain or increase safety, achieve cost-effectiveness and to reduce system life cycle costs and therefore to increase competitiveness. First steps are the identification of standardisation needs and potentials by the railway sector.

 Download the vision for Rail Standardisation in Europe 

A Sustainable Transport Vision for Germany

By Fraunhofer ISI (2011): VIVER

In the VIVER study Fraunhofer ISI draws a picture of how mobility could look like in Germany in 2050. In front of the declining and aging population, the scarcity of fossil fuels, and new technologies a positive scenario of connected transport modes and green cities is drafted. By 2050 we will still have all of today’s transport modes, but they will be used much more carefully and efficiently. In widely car-restricted settlements high quality public transport together with cycling and walking will serve peoples’ travel needs and convenient high speed rail connections will replace all short to medium distance flights.

 Download the Sustainable Transport Vision for Germany 

TRANSvisions: the Future of Transport in Europe in 2050

By Tetraplan, MCRIT, ISIS and ITS Leeds, for the EC DG TREN, 2009

The TRANSvisions study  had the objective in 2009 to assist the DG TREN in carrying out mid- and long-term analysis of different policy means to enhance the debate on transport policies. This study analysed the European transport system in order to identify drivers and changes in its structure with a 40 year horizon view. The project proposed a set of 4 exploratory scenarios both qualitative and quantitative to assist analysing the end-effects of different policy instruments. The study ended up with recommendations concerning transport policy issues to address in the coming years in order to meet aims concerning economic, environmental and social sustainability.

These scenarios are listed below:

  • “Moving alone” or Induced mobility (or Always-on, Emerging Technologies markets, Triumphant markets)
  • “Moving together” or Decoupled mobility (or Good governance, New social contract, Balanced planning) 
  • “Moving less” or Reduced mobility (or New communities, Alternative life styles, People trusting, Committed communities, Shared values). 
  • “Stop moving” or Constrained mobility (or bottlenecks ahead, or Carbon emergency).

 Download the TRANSvisions Final Report

Intelligent Infrastructure Futures

By Curry, A., Hodgson, T., Kelnar, R. and Wilson, A. for the Foresight Programme of the Office of Science & Technology of United Kingdom, 2006

The Foresight Project was set out to examine the challenges and opportunities for the UK in bringing ‘intelligence’ to its infrastructure – the physical networks that deliver such services as transport, telecommunications, water and energy. In particular, the project explored how, over the next 50 years, we can apply science and technology to the design and implementation of intelligent infrastructure for robust, sustainable and safe transport, and its alternatives. The project identified 60 different ‘drivers for change’ and four scenarios of how the future might look.

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Vision for the future. U.S. Intercity Passenger Rail Network Through 2050

Rail Working Group (PRWG), December 2007

The Revenue Study Commission was charged with providing to Congress a national surface transportation vision, with supporting funding and policy recommendations to preserve and enhance the surface transportation system of the United States for the next 50 years.The Commission is taking stock of what needs to occur over the next 50 years. The Passenger Rail Working Group (PRWG) believes it is time to rebuild a vibrant, national intercity passenger rail  network. The network should include intercity corridor trains supported by the national framework of long-distance trains.

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High-Speed Rail Strategic Plan

Federal Railroad Administration, April 2009

We now face a new set of transportation challenges – creating a foundation for economic growth in a more complex global economy, promoting energy independence and efficiency, addressing global climate change and environmental quality, and fostering livable communities connected by safe, efficient, modes of travel. The existing transportation system requires significant investment simply to rebuild and maintain critical infrastructure and modernize aging technologies. Meeting our 21st century challenges will require new transportation solutions as well.
A New Transportation Vision. President Obama proposes to help address the Nation’s transportation challenges by investing in an efficient, high-speed passenger rail network of 100- to 600-mile intercity development models with a 21st century solution that focuses on a clean, energy-efficient option corridors that connect communities across America.

 Download High-Speed Rail Strategic Plan

International Transport Forum 2010. TRANSPORT AND INNOVATION

Louis THOMPSON, 2010

Railway traffic is highly concentrated on only a few networks. Approximately 90% of all railway traffic (freight and passenger) can be found on only six networks, North America (freight oriented), China, India, Russia, Japan (passengers) and the EU 25. 
More than one-third of all the world’s CO2 emissions from energy production and consumption come from carbon-based fuels (principally coal) hauled by railways. By comparison, if all of the world’s railway freight traffic were shifted to trucks, the world emission of CO2 would increase by slightly more than two percent. There is thus a dilemma posed by the fact that railways’ energy efficiency facilitates the transport of fuels that add to the GHG challenge.
The result was, most markedly in North America, an increasingly unsustainable spatial organization of population and economic activity and, everywhere, energy intensive activity accompanied by air pollution, noise, traffic congestion and accidents, and a significant acceleration of climate change. The first half of the 21st century looks quite different. Ever growing population density, personal wealth and climate change are creating a much more inclusive look at transport, not just what it does for us, but also what it does to us. Although economic forces will continue to determine how the transport modes compete, it is likely that external costs, especially carbon emissions but also congestion and safety, will play a larger role in the future of the transport system and of the role assigned to particular modes.

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EC White Paper 2011 “Roadmap to a single transport area”

European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy and Transport, 2011

Building on the lessons learnt, this Roadmap takes a global look at developments in the transport sector, at its future challenges and at the policy initiatives that need to be considered. The Commission’s vision of future transport is presented in Part 2. Key measures to achieve it are outlined in Part 3, summarised in Annex I, and described in more detail in the accompanying staff working document.

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 Download Commission staff working paper

The Mayor’s Rail Vision. Investing in Rail Services in London

Greater London Authority, February 2012

This document sets out the Mayor’s vision for transforming rail services in London. London’s rail travellers suffer from having two separate public transport Networks (TfL and different TOCs). As a result of this fractured approachto rail service provision, existing assets are not being exploited to their full capacity and the new infrastructure being delivered over the next decade may not reach its full potential.This results in a confusing mix of ticket products, fare levels, service quality standards and information provision for customers. The money saved through adopting a more efficient franchising model could be ploughed back into improved service quality and customer facilities. The success of London Overground exemplifies the benefits of devolution. Customer satisfaction has a score of 92 out of 100 and reliability performance is at a UK record of 96 per cent compared with the TOC average of 91 per cent.

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ERRAC Rail21 Vision (2006)

The best way to reduce the costs of railway operations is to Increase the speed/productivity of all assets, so that the same amount of freight can be shipped against lower costs, and Increase the capacity, so that more freight can be shipped and/or more people can travel against the same costs. Simplify the infrastructure, so that the same functionality can be provided with less equipment. Make better use of the existing infrastructure, so that there will be less need for installing more  equipment or additional tracks/platforms. Serve more customers with less staff, and achieve economies of scale.

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EIM Vision 2035 of the Network and Railway Sectors (2009)

The existing railway network and rolling stock form a heterogeneous system with complex constraints on interoperability based largely on history. A more cost-efficient vision for the railway of the future should be based on planned differentiation at infrastructure level between the Multi-purpose core network, where a number of different business categories (heavy freight, high speed passenger, interurban passenger and freight, regional) share the same routes and other lines where the route is largely used by one sector. This approach closely parallels work by ERRAC at European level.

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Comparison Matrix of Ready and Emerging Innovative Transportation Technologies

The status of each emerging technology has been self-evaluated by the inventors/developers of that technology, as of early 2012. Updates will be made as they become available. The definitions of the symbols used in the matrix are given below, following the comparison table.

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Research and Innovation for Europe's Future Mobility

Innovative technologies need to be deployed quickly to reduce Europe's dependence on oil and GHGs and make sure that our mobility is maintained. New technologies are also essential to winning the global race for sustainable mobility, keeping the European transport industry competitive whilst preserving jobs in Europe and supporting economic growth. Europe's citizens and industry could benefit from increased cooperation and prioritisation in transport research and innovation. This requires, among others, the development, with all transport stakeholders involved, of ambitious and accelerated research and deployment roadmaps for innovative technologies that will help to achieve sustainable mobility in Europe.  

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EEA - Laying the foundations for greener transport — TERM 2011: transport indicators tracking progress towards environmental targets in Europe (2011)

For the first time ever the European Commissions is proposing a greenhouse gas emissions target for transport. But how is transport going to provide the services that our society needs while minimising its environmental impacts? This is the theme for the Transport White Paper launched in 2011. TERM 2011 and future reports aim to deliver an annual assessment on progress towards these targets by introducing the Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism Core Set of Indicators (TERM-CSI). TERM 2011 provides also the baseline to which progress will be checked against, covering most of the environmental areas, including energy consumption, emissions, noise and transport demand. In addition, this report shows latest data and discuss on the different aspects that can contribute the most to minimise transport impacts. TERM 2011 applies the avoid-shift-improve (ASI) approach, introduced in the previous TERM report, analysing ways to optimise transport demand, obtain a more sustainable modal split or use the best technology available.

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EC TEN-T Guidelines (2011)

This proposal aims to establish and develop a complete TEN-T, consisting of infrastructure for railways, inland waterways, roads, maritime and air transport, thereby ensuring the smooth functioning of the internal market and strengthening economic and social cohesion. To achieve these objectives, the first field of action is "conceptual planning". Based on input from a public consultation of stakeholders, the Commission concluded that the TEN-T could be best developed through a dual-layer approach, consisting of a comprehensive network and a core network...

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EC - Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Action Plan

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) can significantly contribute to a cleaner, safer and more efficient transport system. A new legal framework ( Directive 2010/40/EU ) was  adopted on 7 July 2010 to accelerate the deployment of these innovative transport technologies across Europe. This Directive is an important instrument for the coordinated implementation of ITS in Europe. It aims to establish interoperable and seamless ITS services while leaving Member States the freedom to decide which systems to invest in.

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IBM Smart Transportation (2011)

IBM has been working with cities and nations around the world to improve many kinds of systems and make them smarter— with particular success in transportation. IBM transportation system isn't a system, it's a collection of related industries, operating in close proximity to one another. IBM Smarter Transportation means advanced traffic management for air, land and sea. It is optimized around the traveler, is connected across all elements of the system, and communicates its status in real time.

 Visit IBM Smart Transportation website
 Visit interactive IBM Smart Transportation experience website