European Year of Rail: The Connecting Europe Express

By Conall Martin / Updated: 19 May 2021

2021 is the European Year of Rail, with the aim of highlighting rail as one of the most sustainable, innovative and safest transport modes available. A range of activities will place rail in the spotlight throughout Europe in 2021, to encourage the use of rail by both people and freight and to contribute to the Green Deal goal of the EU becoming climate-neutral by 2050. The Connecting Europe Express aims to be one of the most emblematic of these initiatives.

The Connecting Europe Express will travel across 26 countries, crossing 33 borders, tracing the routes which connect countries, businesses and people throughout Europe. The Express will be departing from Lisbon on 2 September 2021 and concluding its 20 000 km journey in Paris on 7 October 2021. Railway companies from a range of EU Member States are providing rolling stock to configure the train.

There are many benefits of rail which the European Year of Rail aims to promote. As a diverse mode of transport, rail serves holiday makers and commuters as well as businesses and freight carriers. Shifting to rail can enable businesses to benefit from low-cost and increasingly competitive offers to transport their goods all over Europe – all while reducing their carbon footprint.

Rail is largely electrified and emits far less CO2 than equivalent travel by road or air. While transport accounts for 25% of EU emissions, rail accounts for just 0.4% and is the only transport mode that, between 1990-2017, consistently reduced its emissions and energy consumption, while increasingly using renewable energy sources. In addition, it is affordable, comfortable and the safest mode of land transport with the lowest incidence of fatal accidents.

However, in addition to highlighting the unifying force and benefits of rail, the Connecting Europe Express will also serve to show the challenges that European rail has to overcome in order to become the mode of choice for passengers and businesses alike. One of these challenges is passenger rights in case of delays, cancellations and missed connections. The European Commission welcomes a new framework to improve this exact issue, a passenger rights framework that includes:

  • Mandatory real-time dynamic traffic and travel information for ticket vendors and tour operators;
  • A new right to self-re-routing in case of disruptions;
  • Dedicated places for the carriage of assembled bicycles and;
  • An obligation for carriers qualifying as a ‘sole undertaking’ to offer their international, long-distance domestic and regional rail services as a through-ticket.

Further information on the Connecting Europe Express, the European Year of Rail and new rail passenger rights can be found at the following websites:

Collective passenger transport