At the same time, it should be noted that during the whole period, rail freight never stopped, and has demonstrated its resilience while benefitting from the lower absorption of capacity by passenger trains. Nevertheless, also freight has suffered from a decrease in demand in some areas due to the contingent situation and the stop of industrial activities in major European regions and globally.
What the current situation has shown us, once again, is the critical, strategic and innovative capacity of the rail sector, as demonstrated during and after the crisis. As part of the overall Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2021-2027, including the Next Generation Europe plan, the European Commission’s proposed recovery and reconstruction package for investment will be a unique opportunity also for rail to accelerate the “digital” transformation and sustainable transition undertaken in the last years, building upon the R&I work performed by Shift2Rail.
We are supporting the sector to prepare for the successor of the Shift2Rail programme, expected to start in 2021, once agreed by the Member States and the European Parliament, following a proposal from the European Commission. It will be an opportunity for the current Founding Members to re-engage in an ambitious R&I Programme, bringing on board key players for a core membership to deliver a shared strategic research and innovation agenda, driven by a renewed Master Plan.
Moreover, it will especially be an opportunity for a more balanced participation from operators, infrastructure managers, suppliers, the scientific and research community, etc., and inclusiveness around clear targets. The Shift2Rail successor creates the opportunity to accelerate research and innovation investments with a delivery oriented view, especially needed in the current pandemic situation.