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In the year 1825, railroads and rail transport seemed to be ‘palpably absurd’. None could imagine that a locomotive could go faster than a horse pulled stagecoach. However, a few years later almost every young boy in Europe dreamt of being a train conductor. The very idea of rail which people thought to be absurd became the center of European industrialization and a marker of a collective European identity. This year, the European Union commenced the European Year of Rail, drawing our attention to the importance of European train connections in travel, tourism, transport, and logistics. This initiative aims to boost passenger and freight movement via rail across Europe, especially after the pandemic.

(EU Year of Rail. Pic Credit:

The key motivation for this initiative is to uphold the climate targets and foster cleaner and sustainable energy. This initiative is a part of the European Green Deal that aims to support cheap and healthy forms of private and public transport and further achieve a 90% reduction in transport-related emissions by 2050. Throughout the year, EU countries have planned many events to promote and offer expertise on the development and use of rail transport.

Harmonising Rail Across Europe

Within the European Union, rail accounts for less than 0.5% of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the cleanest and most sustainable forms of logistics. Through the Trans European Transport Network (TENT), many businesses have adopted rail freight as a service. It is also considered one of the most digitalised and safest forms of transportation.

However, only 11% of total goods travel by rail within the borders of the EU. Therefore, this initiative aims to push rail as the primary transport service, thereby shifting cargo volumes and reducing logistics carbon footprint. At the same time, the EU has also instated the 4th Railway Package of 2016, which is designed to create a single market for rail services or a Single European Railway Area. This package supports two pillars that are ‘technical’ and ‘market’, which aim to improve impartiality towards the governance of rail infrastructure through tendering of contracts. At the same time, it works to strengthen competitions so that rail operators become more responsive towards customers.

(Rail as a Sustainable Option. Infographics Credit:

Rail Freight for a Greener, Safer and Smarter Future

Essentially EU Year of Rail aims to promote rail as a green, safe, and smart option. Moreover, it is looking to encourage rail from an alternative to one of the mainstreams forms of transport. As it consumes significantly lower energy, the EU aims to promote rail as a part of multimodal, intermodal, or combined logistics. Between the years 2013 to 2019, the adoption of the railway contributes to a 26% reduction in greenhouse gas emission per kilometer. Moreover, compared to road transport, rail reduce emissions by up to six to seven times. Additionally, it reduces the number of accidents, as it is significantly safer and more organized.

Therefore, rail is a more innovative option as combined transport solutions are safer and greener, with dramatically reduced costs. It is suggested that trucks should only be preferred to cover the shortest distance of transport, such as when the segment is below 300km. Furthermore, rail in Europe is among the safest and continually improved modes of transport. Digitalised systems also enhance the efficiency of rail freight, making it an intelligent transportation mode.

It is a critical time for European logistics companies to develop rail freight systems and push for cargo transport within the EU and outside via rail. The New Silk Road proves an ideal model and complements the rail developments taking place within the EU. Finally, to adopt green logistics, the first step would be to enhance rail capabilities and explore the attractive opportunities offered by this mode of transport, where the New Silk Road Network could be your perfect place to start.

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