Europe on Rail


Promoting sustainable mobility in Europe by fostering rail transport.


In the transport sector far-reaching changes are necessary to meet the EU climate targets. Rail transport plays a major role in mobility transition as it can replace a vast number of flights in a more environmentally friendly manner, especially so in Europe. However, in the past decades many long-distance train services including night trains were discontinued. As major railway connections between EU member states are rare, travelling by train is generally not a suitable alternative to long-distance passenger transport. Against this background, clear political guidelines and concrete policy initiatives are needed to foster European rail transport.

In 2020/21 there were and are special political opportunities to foster rail transport in a sustainable manner: the European Commission presented its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy which is going to shape EU transport policy for the next decade. In September 2020 the EU Rail Summit took place at which the transport ministers of the EU Member States and representatives of railway companies discussed sustainable European rail transport. 2021 was designated as the European Year of Rail, in the course of which the EU will specifically promote railways as a mode of transport and specifically foster their use by citizens.


Main station of Frankfurt, Germany.. (c) Markus Winkler – unsplash


The project has published an EU Policy Paper on the European Year of Rail. It outlines the main challenges posed by cross-border railway passenger transport and contains policy recommendations for EU policy makers. Four national policy papers address policy makers. They illustrate cross-border railway passenger transport in Poland, France, Germany and Spain and include policy recommendations.

To participate in public consultations on the EU Sustainable Mobility Strategy, the project prepared a guide with optional answers as well as a position paper to be disseminated via various networks. The wider public was thus informed about progressive stances on railway transport, and the participation of civil society was promoted. Furthermore, at two internal workshops, Germanwatch and its partner organisations have developed a strategy to ensure the involvement of civil society in the longer term.

Policy makers, railway companies and representatives of civil society were addressed at three national workshops in Poland, Germany and Spain. The aim was to garner support for better cross-border rail transport and to encourage progressive stakeholders to act. An EU policy workshop was held with the aim of building alliances among the key actors to improve cross-border railway transport.

Project information

Updated: June 2021

Countries: France, Germany, Poland, Spain

Project duration: 08/20 - 02/21

Target groups: Civil Society, EU Institutions, Governments

Implementing organisation: Germanwatch e.V.

Partners: Civil Affairs Institute (INSPRO), Eco-union, ECODES - Ecology and Development Foundation, France Nature Environnement, Transport and Environment (T&E)

Contact Person:

Ms Lena Donat

Germanwatch e.V.

Stresemannstr. 72
10963 Berlin



This project is part of the European Climate Initiative (EUKI). EUKI is a project financing instrument by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK). The EUKI call for project ideas is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. It is the overarching goal of the EUKI to foster climate cooperation within the European Union (EU) in order to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.


European Climate Initiative (EUKI)
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10785 Berlin – Germany

Tel.: +49 (0)30 338424 570