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"Trains and Railway Systems of the Future" Task Force: Terms Of Reference

The European Commission has published the terms of reference for the "Trains and Railway Systems of the Future" Task Force whose brief is to develop industrial common research projects in order to reinforce European competitiveness. In recent years, the railways have seen a d...

The European Commission has published the terms of reference for the "Trains and Railway Systems of the Future" Task Force whose brief is to develop industrial common research projects in order to reinforce European competitiveness. In recent years, the railways have seen a decrease in their market share (passengers and goods) in relation to their direct competitors, namely road and air. This is due to political choice which has given priority to individual transport and, in part, to a failure by railways to react to changes in the needs of their customers. Thus road transport has developed to the detriment of the railways, resulting in a constant decrease in both the performance and competitiveness of the latter. In order to reduce the running costs of railway systems, which have been judged in general to be too high, engineers have been tempted to extend to a maximum the life of rolling stock and infrastructure (stations, signalling systems etc.). This has resulted in an increasingly large gap between the reality of the railway world and the needs of customers, who (with the possible exception of the TGV) have increasingly considered rail as an obsolete and restrictive form of transport. Particularly with regard to the rolling stock, the purchase prices and operating and maintenance costs of rail transport are too high. One of the challenges which confronts industry is that of the reduction in the "total life cycle cost" that can be translated by the formula "half weight", "half life", "half cost". This results in the need for considerable research and development efforts integrating economic objectives. An effort in this direction can already be seen at both national and Community level. Railway research carried out by the Member States for the period 1995-1998, is equivalent to some ECU 1,000 million. The Fourth Framework programme has, in addition, allocated around ECU 1,000 million for all transport related research. The resources available for RTD connected with the railway sector amount to approximately ECU 100 million; the TRANSPORT programme provides for the railway sector a specific budget heading (ECU 38 million) distributed between four fields, as follows: - Control/Command; - Safety; - Interoperability; - The organizational, social and economic aspects of rail transport. Seventy per cent of this amount will be devoted to the finalization and validation of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) which was started within the framework of the EURET programme under the Third Framework Programme. To make the best possible use of the means available, the Task Force will have a key role in the definition of future research priorities and objectives. This initiative must create the dynamic needed to bring together the principal actors in the development of rail transport, namely the Commission, Governments, customers, the railways and supply industry. The strategic objectives of the R&D activities to be coordinated by the Task Force are to: - Promote the quality of railway services and intermodality; - Reduce the environmental impact and the consumption of natural resources by railways. As regards the first of these objectives, the development of a means of transport should be encouraged which: - Takes into account the practical needs of customers (comfort, punctuality, safety, security and speed); - Encourages the European policy of integration (interoperability); - Exploits the prospects for increased employment not only through the greater use of rail transport (e.g. reception in stations and on trains), but also by enabling the European railway supply industry to compete in world markets. In this context, technological developments will have to take place within a framework which takes into account the potential growth of demand and the needs of the users and which places future developments in the rail transport field in a coherent manner within an overall transport system enabling in particular passengers and goods to move easily and flexibly from one transport mode to another. Objectives: Starting from the perspective that there is a valid contribution to be made at the European level, wide consultation with industry and users will ensure that the following issues are addressed: - Identification of technological development and industrial innovation priorities in the light of the practical needs of industry and of the citizens; - Improvement in cooperation between the main European industries in the field of railway research (as in the industrial sectors involved with other modes of transport) aimied at bridging fragmented markets and enhancing competitiveness on a worldwide basis; - Creation of conditions, in particular financial, so that Community RTD can act as a catalyst bringing these needs closer to the objectives of Community policy; - The achievement, in view of the continuing increase in development costs of high technology projects, of a "critical mass" both in terms of industrial infrastructure and in financial terms, in order to ensure, at a European level, the development of future generations of trains; - Promotion of a European approach to research with a world dimension which takes into account the objectives of the common transport policy; - Creation of the conditions for the development of a genuine European railway subsystem industry including small- and medium-sized enterprises. In order that rail transport can play a significant role in Europe, in effective competition with other modes, in the short to medium term, attention has to be focused on those business areas in which high added value can be achieved relatively quickly. Particular areas which have been identified for a concentration of effort by the "Trains and Railway Systems of the Future" Task Force include: - Business and other journeys which require a return on the same day, using fast and comfortable transport which is likely to compete with medium-range air transport (e.g. an objective of 1,000 km in 3 hours); - Leisure trips where railways should be able to compete with the flexibility, comfort and speed offered by the private car and air transport (e.g. charter trains); - Public and suburban transport which requires an increase in frequency, improved reliability of operation and punctuality, and more attention to passenger security in stations and on trains; - Freight transport: the strategic objective is to adapt railway services to the needs of modern logistics (e.g. high-speed movements, hub and spoke operations, rapid loading/unloading). Some significant improvements are also likely to result from better traffic management, more efficient use of resources and reduction of life-cycle costs. It will therefore be necessary to consider all components of the railway system, i.e. infrastructure, energy, control/command, rolling stock, maintenance, environment, operation and users. There will be particular emphasis on the following: - With regard to the rolling stock, five large "families" of trains can now be identified, each one comprising specific technological options: magnetic levitation; High Speed Train Set; conventional and/or tilting train; urban and suburban; goods; - With regard to control/command, running costs can be reduced by improved traffic management (e.g. ERTMS), and optimization of vehicle fleets (engines, passenger carriages and goods wagons) should be encouraged by recording the location of rolling stock and of goods in transit; - With regard to users' requirements, efforts will have to be made for the provision of databases and systems which allow better information for the general public about reservations systems and ticketing services and facilitate and speed up ticket reservations by rail passengers; - With regard to the environment, reduced impacts of noise, emissions into the air and contamination of soil. Activities of the Task Force: The "Task Force" will concentrate its activities around the research and development actions : - To define the problems facing the railways in the future, taking account of the views of all interested parties; - To make an inventory of the RTD projects currently promoted or expected by industry and the railways in Member States, or within other European initiatives such as EUREKA (Article 130H). The Task Force will also take into account actions undertaken under TENs and under the various "Information Society" initiatives; - To identify, in cooperation with industry and users, the industrial and technological objectives and subsequent R&D needs by: . Clustering the actions of the specific programmes of the Fourth Framework programme according to the technological needs of industry and of users; . Specifying which of the identified objectives can be reached under the terms of the current actions or those provided for in the context of subsequent Calls for Proposals under the Fourth Framework Programme; . Identifying any additional measures to be undertaken if money can be obtained from the "top up" to the funds now available within Fourth Framework Programme; . Contributing to the critical analysis of existing work programmes leading, where appropriate, to changes in emphasis over a period of time, i.e. in recommendations for Fifth Framework Programme; - To explore the possibilities of using technologies developed to benefit the public at large, notably, communications and data processing; - To envisage the possibility of complementary programmes for railways under: . Article 130H: coordination to ensure the mutual consistency of national and European research policies; . Article 130K: complementary programmes; . Article 130L: participation of the European Union in national programmes; . Article 130N: creation of joint ventures; - To ensure coordination with existing national activities and with other European initiatives such as EUREKA (Art. 130H). During its life, the Task Force will also exchange information with the "Transport intermodality" Task Force so that relevant work in one Task Force can, where appropriate, be reflected in the work of the other. Organization: Membership of the Task Force will comprise representatives from the Commission services directly concerned, including DGs III, VII, XI, XII, XIII, and XVII.

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