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.
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.
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 40 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.
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.