Thursday 21 March 2024

RAIL4CITIES: Transforming railway stations for green and socially-inclusive cities

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The RAIL4CITIES project, a collaborative initiative supported by Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking and its members, is spearheading the sustainable transformation of railway stations and their surrounding areas. At its core lies the visionary concept of the “Sustainable City Promoter (SCP)”, which advocates for optimising existing assets, infrastructure, and facilities in order to achieve sustainability goals.

The SCP reimagines railway stations as vital urban centres, serving as hubs for socially inclusive and local services, as well as for green mobility. Central to its vision is the idea of a “15-minute city”, which would enable citizens to access all essential services nearby. By leveraging advanced engineering solutions with a focus on circular economy principles, the SCP champions protecting the environment.

RAIL4CITIES sets ambitious objectives, aiming to develop and publish an operational SCP model, an EU-wide methodology, and a transformative tool to turn railway stations into a method of promoting sustainable cities. The project addresses complex challenges, including profit-oriented business models, intricate stakeholder networks, and policy gaps.

The initiative’s key objectives are to:

  1. Establish railway stations as new and essential urban centres, fostering sustainable cities and resilient infrastructure
  2. Develop methodologies and tools for the effective and sustainable implementation of the SCP model
  3. Get the European community in motion and achieve results through investment synergies, including having a summer school, an open contest for start-ups, and hosting roadshows (scheduled between July and October 2024)

RAIL4CITIES has created “living labs” in five European countries, which are all dedicated to transforming stations into green, inclusive, and energy-efficient mobility hubs. The details of each living lab are:

France: Toulouse-Matabiau Railway Station (SNCF Hubs & Connexions)

  • Focus: the station as a hub of green, inclusive, and energy-efficient mobility, coupling public transport with new ways of moving (bikes, scooters, e-scooters, cargo bikes, car sharing, etc.) with a particular emphasis on bikes.

Italy: Milan-Rogoredo Railway Station (RFI/Metropark)

  • Focus: the railway station as an energy and circular economy hub, by implementing various energy and shared and micro mobility projects.

Poland: Tomaszów Mazowiecki Railway Station (PKP)

  • Focus: the station as a “socially inclusive service hub”, promoting social integration through new services and modes of mobility, while also exploring nature-based solutions (NBS) to protect the environment, due to the city’s proximity to natural ecosystems.

Germany: Dorfen Railway Station (DB)

  • Focus: sustainable station & Transit Oriented Development (TOD).

Belgium: Ottignies Railway Station (SNCB/NMBS)

  • Focus: transforming the station into a services hub that promotes the 15-minute city concept by fostering a 24-hour environment while creating a vibrant and welcoming station atmosphere. At the same time, the integration of local and circular economy principles will be prioritised to the greatest possible extent.

Additionally, the project plans to study the resilience of infrastructure to facilitate the adaptation of spaces for future use, as well as to address climate change and health crises.

RAIL4CITIES adopts innovative approaches, integrating in-depth primary data analysis, multi-stakeholder engagement, and discussions on the efficient use of resources to effectively address challenges. Deploying the living labs includes regular meetings for progress updates and to identify collective solutions, fostering shared learning experiences between the living labs and involving citizens in the process. This approach involves the “placemaking” method, whereby communities take ownership of the spaces inside and around stations, transforming them into vibrant spaces.

The project emphasises the significance of understanding a station’s environment, engaging with users, analysing data, and devising solutions. Therefore, RAIL4CITIES signifies a steadfast commitment to transforming railway stations and their surrounding areas into sustainable urban spaces by involving citizens through placemaking. The progress observed in the living labs highlights the need for innovation, collaboration, and adaptation to overcome challenges. As the living labs continue to evolve, they will heavily contribute to creating a roadmap for sustainable and resilient cities across Europe.

The RAIL4CITIES project is available on Twitter @RAIL4CITIES, LinkedIn and via its website:

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or of the Europe’s Rail JU. Neither the European Union nor the Europe’s Rail JU can be held responsible for them.

The project is supported by the Europe’s Rail and its members.

For further information, please contact Cécile Gendrot at

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