The European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC), rail’s European technology platform (ETP), held its plenary meeting digitally on 19 November.
The ERRAC plenary welcomed a presentation on the new ERRAC Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA), which is due to be published later this month. The SRIA is a key document for the rail sector and the preparation of Shift2Rail’s successor within Horizon Europe: the Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking.
Sadly, the keynote contributions from DG MOVE and DG Research and Innovation on Horizon Europe and the future Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking have raised strong concerns among ERRAC’s members. Current budgetary and timeline uncertainties could hamper the transformation of the European rail system. ERRAC is calling for a total EU funding budget of 1.5 billion euro for the Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking, and delays in launching the new rail partnership should be avoided given that there will be no Shift2Rail funding calls next year. Furthermore, 2021 is a very important year for the rail community and enthusiasts alike as it has been designated the European Year of Rail. ERRAC members have also communicated to the European Commission that the future Master Plan of the Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking must be based on the R&I priorities contained in the SRIA and supported by the rail sector.
Alberto Parrondo, ERRAC Chairman, emphasised that “the lack of clarity on the final budget, as much as the risk of running an empty 2021 in terms of EU rail innovation, is very disappointing news. We need to urgently act in order to make rail more agile: massive digitalisation, a shift to automation, the arrival of autonomous trains won´t happen by themselves”.
The ERRAC plenary also served as an opportunity to learn more about Shift2Rail’s activities and progress during 2020. Notably, TER4RAIL, a Shift2Rail project, presented its final results: https://ter4rail.eu.