Driving innovation in European transport

Maria Kelly Communications Officer at Shift2Rail outlines how the partnership aims to tackle the challenges of changing EU transport needs…

Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (S2R JU) is a public-private partnership, providing a platform for the key actors of the European rail system to work together with a view to driving innovation in years to come, by implementing a comprehensive and coordinated research and innovation strategy. S2R JU is the first European rail initiative to seek focused research and innovation and market-driven solutions by accelerating the integration of new and advanced technologies into innovative rail product solutions. S2R JU aims to promote the competitiveness of the European Rail Industry and meet the challenge of changing EU transport needs.

Rising traffic demand, congestion, security of energy supply and climate change are some of the major issues that the European Union (EU) and the wider world are facing. Tackling these challenges will require the railway sector to take on a larger share of the transport demand in the next few decades.

EU research and innovation must ensure that rail plays a new, broader role in global transport markets, both by addressing persistent short-term problems that drain rail business operations and resources and by helping the sector achieve a stronger market position, in particular by supporting the creation of a Single European Railway Area.

The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), in particular, is a prime example of how the European rail sector can drive innovation and support the creation of a unified harmonised railway areas and improve efficiency, while opening up significant business opportunities for the European rail industry, both within and outside of the EU. Shift2Rail is Europe’s most ambitious research programme in the rail sector and is vital to ensuring the long- term competitiveness of the industry while delivering sustainable transport in Europe. The enhanced synergies of a public-private partnership are motors for innovation and the prospects are very exciting.

Shift2Rail is jointly owned by the EU and Industry. This programme is vital at a European level and the Innovation Programmes (IP’s) identified in Shift2Rail’s Master Plan, anticipates the European Union’s 4th railway package. This legislation will reform the EU’s rail sector by encouraging competition and innovation in domestic passenger markets. It will also implement structural and technical reforms. The end result being higher levels of safety, interoperability and reliability in the European rail network. It will also make rail more attractive especially for passengers and businesses.

The Shift2Rail programme has 3 ambitious key targets which are to cut life-cycle cost of railway transport by as much as 50%, double railway capacity and increase reliability and punctuality by as much as 50%.

In December 2015, following the adoption of the Shift2Rail Multi-Annual Action Plan (MAAP) and Annual Work Plans 2015 & 2016, the Joint Undertaking published its first calls for proposals to its members and third parties to realise research and innovation activities estimated at €170m in the next 36 months, co-financed up to €90m by the Union contribution.

The topics that S2R launched, and that will start with projects this year, cover most areas of Shift2Rail’s programme1, notably:

  • Rolling stock development of concepts towards the next generation of traction systems, new concepts and architectures for train control and monitoring and advanced brakes;
  • Rail signalling technological and operational advancement for on-board automation systems, high-capacity radio communications systems, safe train separation systems, cyber security systems, innovative testing processes, etc;
  • Infrastructure whole system approach progress enhancing and innovating switch & crossings and track systems, extending the life of bridges and tunnel assets, managing assets in a more holistic, intelligent and consistent way;
  • Passenger centric IT solution for interoperable framework developments and ‘one-stop shop’ sale and use of tickets and travel disruption assistance applications across multiple modes;
  • Research activities targeting freight including automation, noise and LCC. New developments on freight locomotives, on driver advisory systems and intelligent freight wagons;
  • Cross-cutting activities: identification of socio-economic factors that can contribute to an attractive railway system, the development of tools and approaches to enable the impacts evaluation of new technologies. Transversal evaluation and methodologies around energy, noise and vibration. Integrated approaches to deal with the safety of the railway system and planning that takes into account interdependencies in the railway system.

Looking to the future, Shift2Rail will scale up its activities, launching additional calls for proposals and tenders, to ensure adequate funds for the projects in order to achieve the S2R Master Plan targets as they evolve. The S2R JU is a unique partnership representing the commitment and effort of the EU and rail industry at large to deliver a new rail system capable of answering EU challenges in terms of a more attractive and integrated transport system, decarbonisation and climate change, energy supply and efficiency, and digitalisation.

1 http://www.shift2rail.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/S2R-JUGB_Decision-N-15-2015-MAAP.pdf

Maria Kelly

Communications Officer

Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking




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