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15 May 2024, 12:33
Jack McGovan

EU must make rail travel key focus after 2024 elections – industry and NGOs

Clean Energy Wire

Rail travel should be the focus of legislative and investment decisions in the aftermath of the 2024 EU elections, an alliance of rail industry and NGOs said in an open letter addressed to both the incoming European Commission and the German government. In their joint statement, the group of 14 NGOs and transport companies, including Germanwatch and railway service Deutsche Bahn, said that train travel is “by far” the most climate friendly mode of transport. By 2030, the letter said that doubling the number of high-speed trains and increasing the number of freight trains by half are central goals on Europe’s journey to becoming climate neutral by 2050. “The proportion of further long distance, night and regional rail transport must be significantly increased,” the signatories said. “More rail means more climate protection.”

To achieve these goals, the alliance called on more EU funds to be made accessible to speed up the expansion, modernisation and digitalisation of rail transport. Other measures proposed included creating a master plan for a cross-border train network by 2030 and to make booking train tickets as easy as booking flights. The letter said that rail expansion should be financed sustainably, including the reduction of environmentally counterproductive subsidies in the transport sector, and shifting to freight transport by recruiting skilled workers and optimising regulations to make it easier. “Rail has been destroyed across the EU for decades,” Lutz Weischer, head of Germanwatch’s Berlin office, said. “Now we need politicians to give us a boost when it comes to reforming the European framework for switching to rail to achieve our climate goals.”

Earlier this year, the German government announced budget cuts, which reduced the investment in freight transport by 300 million euros. Interest groups had previously criticised the German government for cuts to investment in rail, saying that climate targets are being put at risk.

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