Photo credit (banner): Alex Profit

SNCF celebrates the European Year of Rail

Train travel is sustainable, accessible and safe—and because it's eco-friendly, it’s a powerful ally in the European Union’s effort to reach climate neutrality by 2050. To encourage businesses and individuals across the continent to get on board, we’re taking part in a series of events to mark the European Year of Rail.

Updated on

3-minute read

The station manager’s whistle. Stunning views from your window. The thrill of boarding a night train and waking up in a new city. We’ve all had memorable train journeys—but rail is about more than our cultural heritage and collective imagination. It’s also one of the greenest modes of transport around. Sustainable, innovative, affordable and safe for both people and goods, rail is vital to achieving the 2050 climate-neutrality target set in the European Green Deal1.

Learn more about the European Green Deal

The future is rail

Making rail the go-to solution

On 29 March 2021, the European Council and the European Commission kicked off the European Year of Rail to inspire Europeans—and particularly young people—to choose the sustainable mobility offered by rail.  Approved by the European Parliament on 15 December 2020, this celebration encourages both passengers and businesses to make trains their first choice. Key themes include:

  • ways to reduce CO2 emissions
  • passenger rights
  • rail’s crucial role in keeping economies moving in a crisis
  • the job categories and skillsets that give rail its unique appeal
  • overnight trains
  • tourism
  • railways’ historical and cultural significance

SNCF’s calendar of events

The timing couldn’t be better. In 2021, we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of our high-speed TGV trains, the 50th anniversary of the Cité du Train railway museum and the 25th anniversary of our Thalys international service. The year also marks the inauguration of the Salle des Fresques shopping gallery in Paris-Lyon station, as well as completion of a number of EU-funded network upgrades.

For all these reasons, SNCF Group was delighted to accept the European Commission’s call for infrastructure managers and rail companies to organize events for the European Year of Rail. It’s a perfect opportunity to showcase European engineering expertise and the power of rail to connect people, regions, and businesses across the continent.

Why 2021?

It’s no coincidence that the European Year of Rail is 2021.  It’s the first year of full implementation for the Fourth Railway Package, an EU legislative measure that breaks down the last institutional, legal and technical barriers to competition, creating a single, integrated European rail area and spurring economic growth.

Learn more about the EU’s Railway Packages

Don’t miss the Connecting Europe Express

The Connecting Europe Express will be among the highlights of the European Year of Rail. The train will depart from Lisbon on 2 September, visiting 40 cities in 26 countries before arriving at its destination in Paris on 7 October 2021. At each stop, special events will celebrate the power of rail.

But the journey will also highlight challenges the rail sector must overcome to attract more passengers and freight traffic. Because Europe’s rail network is still not fully interoperable, 3 separate trains will be needed for the 3 track gauges used across the continent.

Each Connecting Europe Express train will have 6 coaches2 will house travelling exhibitions on the rail industry’s many technologies and innovations, with the other 4 used for conferences, leisure, sleeping and dining.

To date, 5 conferences on the EU's smart, sustainable mobility strategy have been confirmed along the train’s route. They’ll take place in: 

  • Lisbon
  • Bucharest
  • Brdo
  • Berlin 
  • Bettembourg.

The European Commission and the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) organized the project, working with European rail operators, infrastructure managers and many other partners.

"The Connecting Europe Express is a symbol of the ties that bind us. As it criss-crosses the continent from Lisbon to Bucharest and from Berlin to Paris, it will follow routes that connect countries, businesses and people,” says Adina Vălean, the European Commissioner for Transport. “But this special train also serves as a reminder of how far we have to go and how much work we need to do to make rail the transport option of choice for Europeans.”

Learn more about the Connecting Europe Express

1 The European Green Deal provides an action plan to restore biodiversity, cut pollution and use resources more efficiently by moving to a clean, circular economy. The plan outlines necessary investments, highlights available financing tools, and shows how to make the energy transition fair and inclusive.  The EU aims to be climate neutral in 2050.