1 January 2021 marks the beginning of the European Year of Rail, the Commission’s initiative to encourage and support the efforts of the Union, Member States and several stakeholders to increase the share of passengers and freight moving by rail. Despite rail is responsible for less than 0.5% of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, indeed, actually only about 7% of passengers and 11% of goods travel by rail.

Part of the strategy for a sustainable and safe European transport, and of the Union’s efforts to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 according to the European Green Deal, the initiative aims at promoting rail transport as a sustainable, innovative, interconnected and intermodal, safe and affordable mode of transport through a variety of activities which will take place across the continent, highlighting its many dimensions, and will be supported by a funding of at least EUR 8 million from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2022.

More particularly, the promotion of rail transport will take place through projects and activities such as, amongst the others, i) initiatives in Members States to encourage, in both the public and private sector, business-travel and commuting patterns by rail, which account for 80% to 90% of all passengers, ii) sharing experience and best practices of national, regional and local authorities as well as the different stakeholders with regard to promoting the use of rail and on how to implement behavioural change at all levels, iii) activities fostering awareness of the importance of the single European railway area, and iv) projects with a view to the realisation of an extended, modernised and interoperable railway infrastructure.

Furthermore, the Commission will consider initiating a study on the feasibility of creating a European label to promote goods and products transported by rail as well as a feasibility study with a view to introducing a rail connectivity index. By 31 March 2021, the Commission will inform the European Parliament and the Council of its plans, submitting, by 31 December 2022, a report on the implementation, results and overall assessment of the initiatives undertaken.