EUROPE: 500 senior railway executives, politicians and suppliers gathered in Brussels on February 9 for the fifth annual European Railway Awards, organised by CER, EIM and UNIFE.

In his keynote address, European Commission Vice-President for Transport Siim Kallas once again emphasised the need for the emergence of a ‘Single European Railway Area’ as part of a wider strategy to improve the EU’s competitiveness, reduce energy consumption and tackle climate change.

Suggesting that the rail sector was not yet fully competitive, he hinted at further legislative changes in the forthcoming recast of the First Railway Package and the Commission’s next White Paper on Transport policy.

CER Chairman Mauro Moretti called for greater investment to boost capacity and support technical harmonisation, as well as putting the rail sector on a firmer financial footing, but Kallas warned that public-sector financing was likely to be limited in the 2014-20 budget now under discussion.

Moretti said the priorities for the next few years included expanding the European high speed network across borders and providing operators with ‘an efficient, high-quality freight transport infrastructure’. He pointed out that CER members had already agreed to reduce CO2 emissions from trains by 30% by 2020, and were ‘now striving towards offering carbon-free rail services by 2050’.

The 2011 Political Award was presented to the former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone in recognition of his decision to implement the London Congestion Charge in 2003, cited as an ‘example of how to improve the sustainability of transport’, reducing car traffic and raising funds for public transport investment.

The Technical Award was presented to Dr Stefan Haas of Knorr-Bremse Austria for his work on developing and introducing the eddy-current brake. UNIFE Chairman Hans-Jörg Grundmann said the eddy-current brake fitted to DB’s ICE3 fleet had ‘become a successful, reliable and cost-efficient product that has exceeded all expectations by far’, thanks to excellent co-operation between the train operator, systems integrator and brake supplier.