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Devised by the European Commission as part of the European Year of Rail, and made possible by unprecedented industry collaboration, the Connecting Europe Express will cross the continent this autumn. The special train will demonstrate – in real time – the power of rail to connect people and businesses, and the importance of EU infrastructure policy in making this possible.

The route was announced today, on Europe Day, as Europe celebrates peace and unity, and the close links that have been built over the years – cultural, economic and physical. The Connecting Europe Express will be able to explore many of those physical links. Beginning its journey on 2 September in Lisbon and stopping in more than 70 cities in 26 countries, the train will link the Portuguese, Slovenian and French Presidencies of the Council of the EU, arriving in Paris on 7 October.

Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “Crisscrossing the continent, from Lisbon to Bucharest and from Berlin to Paris, the Connecting Europe Express will follow routes that bind us together – whether as countries, businesses or people. While a symbol for connectivity, this train also serves as a reminder that we still have a long way to go and much work to do before rail becomes the transport option of choice for Europeans. Welcome the Connecting Europe Express as it stops at a station near you and join the events taking place around the continent.”

The project is a unique endeavour, involving the European Commission and the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), European rail operators, infrastructure managers and numerous other partners at EU and local level.

CER Chair and CEO of Austrian Federal Railways Andreas Matthä emphasised: “Travelling through 26 European countries, the Connecting Europe Express is proof of the importance of the European Year of Rail. I thank all CER members for their involvement in this key project with the European Commission. In order to achieve our climate targets, we need to further strengthen the vitality of rail with more international long-distance passenger rail services and we must also consistently shift freight transport to rail.

At each of the stops, events and other activities, adapted to local COVID-19 measures, will shine a light on the key role that rail plays for our society, but also on the challenges that rail must still overcome to attract more passengers and freight.

Background information

A reminder of the lack of interoperability between some parts of Europe’s rail network, the Connecting Europe Express will comprise, in reality, three different trains that fit the different gauges used in Europe. But it will also demonstrate the very good cooperation in place between railway undertakings and infrastructure managers.

The Connecting Europe Express running on the standard gauge will have six coaches. Two will host mobile exhibitions on the many technologies and innovations already improving the rail experience, and on how the EU supports infrastructure projects.   A conference, sitting, dining and sleeping coach will complete the train.

A separate train will run on the Iberian gauge in Portugal and Spain, and a third one on the Baltic gauge in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Both trains will meet with the standard gauge train along the route.

Five conferences have already been confirmed and will take place along the route ‒ in Lisbon, Bucharest, Brdo, Berlin, and Bettembourg ‒ inviting discussion and debate on the ambitious targets and action plans for rail outlined in the EU’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. The conferences will focus on EU infrastructure policy, and highlight the role of the Trans-European Network for Transport (TEN-T) in connecting not only Europe, but also transport.

Hop on the Connecting Europe Express!

Citizens and organisations interested in organising an event or activity along the route are invited to share their ideas via info@connectingeuropeexpress.eu

For a detailed map and regular updates on the Connecting Europe Express as well as the European Year of Rail, visit www.connectingeuropeexpress.eu and europa.eu/year-of-rail/

The Connecting Europe Express, one of the European Year of Rail 2021’s most emblematic initiatives, is being presented today during the official European Year of Rail kick-off conference, organised in cooperation with the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU. The event takes place on the eve of an informal meeting of EU transport ministers focusing on different ways to accelerate a modal shift to rail.

As of September, the Connecting Europe Express will travel across the EU and stop in most European capitals to promote the many benefits of rail – for passengers, freight and the environment.  The project will also raise awareness of the importance of financing sustainable infrastructure such as rail, and EU support for such investment, including through the recently agreed new Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), worth €33.7 billion, as part of the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027. The train’s journey is possible thanks to good cooperation between European rail operators and infrastructure managers.

Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “The Connecting Europe Express will be a real, tangible example of the power of rail to connect. At each of the almost 40 stops, events will bring together the rail sector at large, as well as civil society organisations, local and regional authorities, and the wider public, to discuss the benefits of rail, as well as what still has to be done so that rail can become the number one option for passengers and business.”

Strong efforts to further integrate and modernise the European railway network are key to rail playing its decisive role in driving a modal shift – that is to say, to encourage more people and businesses to use rail as one way in which to decarbonise transport. This would help the EU meet its ambitious carbon-neutrality objectives, as set out in the EU Green Deal and the European Commission’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. This potential is also why rail has such a central place within the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) policy.

Joined forces

The European Commission is teaming up with partners at EU and national level to explore ways to encourage the use of rail by both citizens and businesses, and to contribute to the EU Green Deal goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050. All events and other activities planned at local level are going to take into account local COVID-19 measures.

The Connecting Europe Express is unique in many ways. For example, railway companies from different EU Member States are providing rolling stock to configure this train. Coordinated by the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Managers (CER), the project will be run not only in cooperation with European rail operators, but also infrastructure managers.

CER Chair and CEO of Austrian Federal Railways Andreas Matthä emphasised the significance of the joint project: “The Connecting Europe Express shows a strong commitment of the European Union and the European Member States reflecting the importance of the railway sector. Only by consistently shifting freight traffic to rail and expanding international long-distance passenger rail services will Europe be able to achieve its climate targets and make the European Green Deal an overall success.

Why rail

Modern railways are more relevant than ever for our sustainable and digital mobility transformation, and for regaining passengers’ trust in collective transport; this has been severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Rail is not only sustainable: it is also safe and innovative; it connects people, cities and regions all across the European Union.

It also has a strong European dimension: the EU has one of the most dense railway networks worldwide, and our rail industry and companies are world champions and a valuable source of jobs and growth in Europe.

European funding reflects rail’s key role for the future of transport. In the period 2014-2020, CEF Transport contributed to the decarbonisation of the European economy by investing heavily in environmentally friendly transport modes, including 266 railway actions across the EU. The CEF funding allocated to railway actions accounts for €16.3 billion, 72% of the total CEF Transport funding.

Organisations interested in organising an event or activity along the route are invited to share their ideas with the organising team via info@connectingeuropeexpress.eu

For regular updates on the Connecting Europe Express, visit https://www.connectingeuropeexpress.eu