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European railway companies to improve cross-border collaboration

The CEOs of the European railway companies met on the 30th of May in Lugano to discuss the challenges of the mobility of the future which they plan to address as a collective effort. The representatives of European railways have signed a Declaration on mutual cooperation in the development of railway transport.

The European railway companies plan to improve cross-border collaboration. Therefore, the railway executives announced in the declaration, that contains an action plan with numerous measures. The European railways want to establish themselves as providers and integrators of sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility solutions along the entire travel chain from door to door. The focus is on their great strength: The railways transport many passengers and goods to their destination over long distances reliably, safely and on time. The largest rail stations are to function as attractive hubs and create connections to other modes of transport and providers.

The connections within Europe are to be improved overall. The railways want to advance digitisation and coordinate the ticketing systems. Customers should be confident that their data is protected and used only with their consent to improve services. However, the railways want to exchange technical data openly and harmonise standards so that processes can be simplified and costs reduced. Other modes of transport do not share their data; the railways, on the other hand, use them to create innovations.

The railways call for a level playing field in intermodal competition. Remote buses are just forerunners of new, different modes of transport. The European railways are aware that their future lies in their own hands. The framework conditions, however, must be improved. For this reason, the CEOs are calling on policy-makers to recognise their responsibility. The long-term, reliable funding of the maintenance and upgrading of rail infrastructure must be ensured. For successful digitisation, both the needs of the railways and the customers must be taken into account when dealing with data. As government-related companies, railways must not be more restricted than IT companies such as Google.

At the Summit, the CEOs of SBB, DB and FS have agreed to introduce a new direct connection between Frankfurt/Main and Milan through Switzerland, starting with December 2017. For this service, SBB’s ETR610 trains are to be used, recently authorised in Germany. The CEOs of SBB (Andreas Meyer), Deutsche Bahn (Rüdiger Grube) and Ferrovie dello Stato (Renato Mazzoncini) signed a corresponding declaration of intent in Lugano in the margin of the CEO Summit. First of all, a daily pair of trains is planned by 2020. In the north-south direction the trains will run via the Gotthard axis, in the south-north direction via Lötschberg. In this way, direct connections will be created from Germany to Lucerne and Ticino and from Valais to Germany. This opens up new business areas, especially in tourism. Until the definitive launch of the trinational service, the railways are still checking different service and rolling stock options from the end of 2020. Then the Ceneri Base Tunnel should go into operation, which will further reduce the travel time on the Gotthard axis by half an hour.

With this trinational service, the railways underline their international ambitions and the importance of their cooperation in the face of increasing competition from budget airlines and remote buses. Rail’s uncontested strengths are also to be utilised across national boundaries.

During the talks the CEOs of SBB, DB and FS also reaffirmed measures to improve punctuality, which had been initiated in previous summit meetings. Passenger and freight service customers can also enjoy better services thanks to planned infrastructure upgrades. The Ceneri Base Tunnel and the four-metre corridor will make the Gotthard axis an efficient flat route for freight services from the end of 2020. Between Mannheim and Basel the route will continue to be upgraded in stages in the coming years. In Italy, several routes will be upgraded in the years ahead; around Milan three new freight loading terminals are planned.

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