Railroads in Europe: one railroad for Europe? Transport/Europe #10

Although it is not the most common mode, rail transport plays an eminent role in Europe in the transport of passengers and merchandise. It has a special place in public debate and political decision-making, particularly because of its weight in public spending, its virtues in terms of safety and respect for the environment, its contribution to mass transit in densely-populated areas, and the hopes that it offers for the decarbonization of mobilities and freight transport.

Europe was the birthplace of rail and it now has one of the world’s densest rail networks. There are differences between the national networks however, with many significant disparities in terms of their geography and their density of course, their hierarchy and their modes of management, their technical characteristics, their traffic levels and their modal share in the transport of passengers and freight. There is one difference which is little known but very important: the breakdown between passenger transport and freight transport is quite different from one rail network to another.

Over thirty years ago, faced with this mosaic of qualitatively different systems, more juxtaposed than interdependent, the European Union decided to develop a single railway area. How are Countries and national rail systems being integrated towards this goal? More than four years after the adopting of the fourth European railway package, and at a time when the mobilization of the European Union for the development of rail transport is being reinforced by the orientations of the Green Deal, can we assess the convergences and progress of the national rail policies? Are the specific national features fading away or on the contrary are they becoming more entrenched and reinforced?

Meeting in Paris at the beginning of July 2023, the experts of the OPSTE undertook a comparative study of the rail systems of ten countries – Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, and Switzerland. Transport/Europe Bulletin #10 offers you an overview enriched with items published by IRG Rail and a data sheet dedicated to the British rail system.

On this occasion the OPSTE is delighted to welcome a new expert, Mihaela Negulescu, broadening the field of its studies to include a new country : Romania.

You can consult or download bulletin #10:

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