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Railway innovations must be implemented to secure competitiveness

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

On June 14, IMPACT II ends with a final conference in Brussels. The project is part of the European railway initiative Shift2Rail which will end in 2023. IMPACT II has evaluated the effect that innovations from Shift2Rail can have on the railway system. The results will be part of the conference in June - but you can already now take part in Ida Kristoffersson's, research leader VTI, insights and lessons learned.

''Our part within IMPACT II is about calculating the long-term effects of the technical innovations that have been developed within the European cooperation Shift2Rail'', explains Ida. More than 50 technological innovations have been developed within Shift2Rail - everything from digital automatic couplings to improved reservation systems for train tickets. But what potential do these have to shift freight and passenger transport to trains in the long term when all the innovations are in use in the train system? This is the question that we have investigated within IMPACT II

''For high-speed trains, regional trains, subways and freight trains, we have analyzed a typical corridor for each type of rail traffic and developed models for selecting transport modes for these corridors. We have also developed different scenarios for the electrification and automation of road transport and analyze how it affects the train's market shares in the long term.''

Porträtt av Ida Kristoffersson

Electrification of road traffic is the major uncertainty factor 
-We see the potential for the innovations developed within Shift2Rail to increase the market share for trains, above all for certain high-speed rail corridors where demand exceeds capacity, as well as for regional trains and freight trains. However, the results are greatly influenced by the assumptions made about the electrification of road traffic, says Ida.

If electrification proceeds quickly, electrified road transport will be a strong competitor to rail transport for long-distance journeys, where the road network is often not as congested, and the role of Shift2Rail innovations will be to secure market shares.  

Fast action is essential for a resilient rail 
The results show the importance of the innovations developed within Shift2Rail being used in real train systems as soon as possible. If it takes a long time to introduce the innovations, the railway risks falling behind and losing market share.  

''Going forward, more train corridors should be investigated to capture the diversity of different types of train corridors in Europe, perhaps above all for high-speed trains because the type of corridor we looked at is a bit special with high demand that exceeds capacity'', explains Ida.

''The project has been about the future of trains in Europe, and how technical innovations can support the train's development. I think that is interesting in itself, but also has implications for other issues - such as how we are going to cope with climate change'', concludes Ida.