Rail is one of the greenest modes of transport so having a higher share of passenger and freight journeys performed by train is fundamental for decarbonising the transport sector.

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The history of Europe can be seen through its railways. The European rail network is a complex web of national networks that have all their specificities. These political and technical differences still need to be overcome in order for rail to grow. Rail faces tough competition with all other transport modes and, as a result, counts only for a minority of passenger kilometres. 

The European Commission has said it wants high-speed rail traffic to triple by 2050. With one of the densest networks in the world, rail in the EU can play a key role in advancing a much more efficient transport system, built around dense urbanisation. 

Shifting passengers from road and air transport to rail transport is a necessity to achieve the EU climate targets in time. As rail is the most energy efficient mode of passenger transport, if more people were to travel by train (rather than more polluting modes) then the CO2 emissions from the transport sector would be reduced. On average in Europe, rail emits 33g CO2eq per passenger-km (5 to 6 times less than air travel). On some journeys the difference is bigger, for example, between Paris and Barcelona, rail travel emits close to 100 times less CO2eq than travelling by air. 

Today, rail in Europe is underperforming due to the persistence of national differences, regulatory disadvantages, lack of investments and a market still dominated by rail monopolies.

T&E wants rail in Europe to be the most attractive option to travelers. It must be both sustainable, affordable and customer-orientated and operate as a public transport service that motivates people to switch from the road, air and onto rail instead.

Rail challenges

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Read the latest publications about rail