27. April 2015

How rail contributes to greater quality of life in Europe

EU project LivingRAIL: a vision for a more humane transport world in 2050

Not every vision has to be high-tech: maybe a better life could simply be attained if enough people were to stop using their cars.

Berlin, April 27, 2015. What would happen if the EU’s White Paper for Transport were to be actually put into practice? If people were to distance themselves from their cars and re-conquer the public spaces in the cities? These are the questions that experts asked as part of the EU project LivingRAIL. What came out was a vision for rail transport in Europe in 2050 that is based on the targets set out in the White Paper. The rail experts envisage a humane and sustainable world of transport in 2050 in which the majority of Europeans use the train for making regional and long-distance journeys, with a large proportion of medium and long-distance freight also being transported by train on mainly electrified rail networks. Settlement planning will be oriented towards the requirements of a sustainable, railway-friendly transport system. Public spaces, especially in cities, will be oriented towards people, not cars. Successful cities in the future will be green with local amenities where people can walk and cycle or use the train for longer journeys. The idea of the car as a status symbol will be obsolete and will have been replaced by the trend for sharing and just using cars instead of owning them, as well as for pragmatically combining different modes of transport. Railway stations will be places where all transport modes intersect and will be urban centres of economic, cultural and social activities. A dense rail network will connect Europe’s cities and regions with each other, helping the continent to grow together. The European rail operators will focus consistently on the needs of their customers and offer high-quality, affordable and reliable passenger and freight transport services. Making a train journey through Europe will be as easy to organise as travelling by car, truck or airplane.
To be able to hit the targets in the EU White Paper, rail operators in Europe will have to increase their market share by three to five times. “This is very ambitious but it is achievable,” declared Claus Doll, project coordinator from the Fraunhofer Institute for System and Innovation Research on Monday in Karlsruhe. “However, many stakeholders will have to work together. It requires cultural change in consumers’ values and for them to live this change in their everyday lives. The rail companies will have to undertake enormous efforts to become more customer-oriented, more flexible and innovative. And politicians must support both of these factors with coordinated spatial planning and transport policies. If just one of these stakeholders is not involved it will not work.” In fact the railways are not the “one and only blessed transport mode, its flexibility in sparsely populated regions is and will remain limited,” said Claus Doll. The LivingRAIL researchers see the railways as a system integrator in a multi-modal, networked transport system. Claus Doll: “The railways are the main artery in a multitude of transport services, which include bike and car sharing, car and bike rental, and delivery services.”

Video: the LivingRAIL project film

Where the ownership of private cars has become obsolete and transport habits focussed on cars has become a thing of the past, new opportunities will open up for the railways. That will be good for people and for the environment. “Driving less is not about doing without, it is about an increase in quality of life,” said Frauke Jürgens, who is responsible for the LivingRAIL project for the German Pro-Rail Alliance. “People will profit from an environment that is more worth living in, a better way of life and less stress.” In cities in particular, fewer cars will free up space for attractive public areas for relaxing or interacting with others.

This change in mobility values will begin in the cities, which suffer the most under the impact of personal modes of transport. “Journeys start and finish in the city. When people are used to being mobile in a city without a car, they are more flexible in their choice of transport when it comes to planning other trips. On top of that, urban dwellers are generally the trendsetters in society,” said Jürgens. The fact that people are already changing how they think is shown a current study from the German Environment Agency (UBA), which concludes that 82 percent of Germans are in favour of restructuring cities so that people will hardly need to use a car. Among young people, this figure is even higher, with 92 percent favouring restructuring.

The LivingRAIL researchers say that their vision for the railways in 2050 will be given impetus by megatrends including limited resources and climate change, demographic developments, urbanisation, digitalisation and automation. In detail, their analysis states: that the increasing cost of energy will strengthen the competitiveness of the railways because of their better energy efficiency, which will also make an indispensable contribution to climate protection; that demand for simpler, more comfortable mobility will increase in an aging society; that ever more people will be living in metropolitan areas that will no longer be able to cope with personal transport; that digital technology will simplify access to multimodal mobility, in other words to a flexible and barrier-free combination of transport modes; and that automation with improve the cost efficiency and the flexibility of a complex system such as the railways.

The LivingRAIL research project is a collaboration between research institutes, alliances promoting the railways and the rail industry. The eight partners come from six European countries. Alongside the Vision Rail 2050 they are also developing a roadmap that will show which stakeholders will have to which measures in order hit the targets in the EU White Paper on Transport.
LivingRAIL is funded under the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission.

Additional information

The LivingRAIL vision can be found here:
http://www.livingrail.eu/rail-in-europe-2050/the-livingrail-vision 
The LivingRAIL roadmap will be available in June. The first conclusions can be found here:

http://www.livingrail.eu/railmap/key-messages

Event:

Vision Rail 2050 – in which transport world do we want to live and why is it such a long way off? On May 4 2015, Fraunhofer Forum
Why are we in Germany so far removed from a sustainable, less road-fixated transport system? On May 4, transport expert Professor Hermann Knoflacher, a well-known car critic, and the chairman of the German parliament’s transport committee Martin Burkert will discuss the Germans’ addiction to cars and the country’s stagnating transport policies. The discussion will be held in German. You can download the programme here:
http://www.livingrail.eu/images/pdf/Einladung_LivingRAIL_4.5._Berlin.pdf