Sustainable transport: the train is one step ahead in Austria

While much remains to be done to create a unified rail network in Europe, the European Commission is taking the lead with its train Connecting Europe Express which promotes rail as a sustainable mode of transport. He must step into 26 pays dont France and has already visited Austria, the Member State where the proportion of passengers by train is the highest compared to road transport.

“For us, Connecting Europe Express shows in this European Year of Rail that rail transport has a future,” says Bernhard Rieder, representative of Austrian railway company ÖBB.

Different standards from one country to another

But national systems across Europe have different technical standards. This represents an obstacle to cross-border traffic. “Each border crossing means new rules and regulations, technical challenges: this must change!” esteem Bernhard Rieder.

About a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union are caused by transport. To reduce them and achieve climate neutrality by 2050, Brussels intends in particular to triple high-speed rail traffic.

Austrian commitment

The Austrian network is particularly developed because of the investments in infrastructure and the frequency of connections. “In the city, it’s more pleasant because the train is faster, “ says a young passenger on a train in Vienna. “We are not stuck in traffic jams and it is also more respectful of the environment because if I took my car alone, I would generate a lot more CO2,” she emphasizes.

Since 2019, ÖBB has only used electricity from renewable sources to run its trains thanks to eight hydropower plants and a photovoltaic plant.

“It is the world’s first solar power plant to power trains,” specifies Daniel Pinka, representative of ÖBB, by showing us around the site. “Thanks to 7000 panels, solar energy is transformed into electricity, it is transferred to the rail network directly,” he adds.

NGOs denounce “European contradictions”

Although rail is by far the most funded mode of transport by the European Union, the train is often more expensive than the plane for the same trip. NGOs also criticize the fact that neither VAT nor kerosene tax has yet been levied on international air transport.

Christian Gratzer is part of theNGO focused on mobility and transport VCÖ. “On the one hand, we adopt climate objectives which provide for a significant reduction in greenhouse gases and on the other hand, we continue to develop the road network, we subsidize air transport and regional airports: total contradiction with the climate objectives, we must put the package on the rails, “ he insists.

More and more Member States are subsidizing that sector to reduce the price of train travel. Slovakia and Hungary, for example, provide free travel for low-income travelers such as senior citizens. Austria is launching an annual pass valid for all public transport in the country at only three euros per day.

This report is part of “Mobility Week” on euronews. From September 13 to 17, 2021, we are exploring new trends in the fields of transport and individual mobility. Discover other articles here.

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