GERMANY: Agreement to take forward plans for a European network of high speed day and overnight inter-city services was reached on May 17 when European transport ministers signed a Letter of Intent for the Trans-Europ-Express 2.0 programme at the third Rail Summit staged by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport & Digital Technology.
The Letter of Intent was the focus of interest at an event designed to take stock of progress since Germany’s second Rail Summit on June 30 2020. At that time initial presentations were made about plans for Deutschlandtakt, Germany’s national regular-interval timetable and for revival of the TEE concept.
The theme for this year’s summit was ‘Deutschlandtakt meetsEuropatakt’, with proposals announced for simultaneous progress with the German scheme and a matching plan for regular-interval international high-quality passenger services under the TEE 2.0 brand.
In his introduction Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer noted how resilient the rail mode had been during the pandemic, predicting that ‘there will be a time when people will travel more’. After months where travel had not been possible ‘every journey will become something special’, he said.
Germany lies at the heart of Europe’s rail network and is traversed by six European corridors, Scheuer emphasised. He said the concept of regular-interval high speed day and night services outlined last year had received support from many European states, and there was also backing for a digital booking platform. The European Commission had been approached to support the programme for enhancing cross-border services.
TEE 2.0 was the ‘foundation for a connected and synchronised European timetable’, he suggested. Criteria that would qualify services for TEE 2.0 status included routes between at least three states or between two states over a distance of at least 600 km; trains had to operate at least at 160 km/h over a significant part of the route and achieve an end-to-end average of at least 100 km/h. Specified comfort levels and the provision of catering would be required. Scheuer envisaged that the programme would be gradually implemented through the 2020s, starting this year.
In terms of TEE 2.0 overnight services, routes including Wien – München – Paris and Zürich - Amsterdam would be possible from December 2021, with Wien – Berlin – Brussels – Paris following in 2023 and Zürich – Barcelona in 2024.
In a video message to the Summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed the national commitment to the rail mode with as much as €5bn being made available through the 2030 climate change programme alone. Agreements for enhancing international services such as Berlin – Praha – Wien were pointers towards progress in tackling climate change, she said, while European transport ministers’ plans for TEE 2.0 services and the expansion of high speed and overnight services represented ‘a good step towards the single European Railway Area’. Merkel thanked all who had contributed to ensure the provision of rail services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Welcoming the Summit as ‘an excellent contribution towards the European Year of Rail’, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen highlighted in her message how important it was that rail emerged from the pandemic in a stronger form ‘in order to build a dynamic and competitive rail market. We need rail as a sustainable transport mode more than ever before to reach the aims of our European Green Deal’, she said. Now was the time to restore trust in public transport services: ‘I should like to see the trains full again’, she said.
Asserting that high speed passenger traffic needed to double by 2030 and to triple by 2050 if Europe’s strategic climate targets were to be met, she reminded delegates of the need for freight traffic to rise by 50% by 2030 and to be doubled by 2050. Courageous measures and political will were essential, she insisted.
To meet these targets von der Leyen promised that the Commission would present an Action Plan later this year to foster and promote long-distance passenger rail services. The Commission would also look at measures to facilitate new overnight passenger services, which she felt had ‘enormous potential’ to win more passengers to rail.