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Greater digitalization and fair competition drive climate-friendly rail

Discover how digitalisation and fair competition are driving the expansion of climate-friendly rail freight transport in Europe.
climate-friendly rail
Dr. Sigrid Nikutta, DB Board Member for Freight Transport and Head of DB Cargo AG, takes over the chairmanship of the “Rail Freight Forward” initiative from Dr. Clemens Först, Board Spokesman of the ÖBB subsidiary Rail Cargo Group DB AG / Oliver Lang

In an effort to address climate targets and enhance sustainable transportation, European rail freight companies have set their sights on a significant modal shift to climate-friendly rail. The Rail Freight Forward initiative, comprising a coalition of industry leaders, aims to achieve a 30% share of freight transportation across the continent through digitalization and automation.

Dr. Sigrid Nikutta, the newly appointed chair of the initiative and DB Board Member for Freight Transport and head of DB Cargo AG, emphasizes the potential of these advancements to revolutionize climate-friendly rail freight, succeeding Dr. Clemens Först, Board Spokesman of the ÖBB subsidiary Rail Cargo Group, who led the initiative for five years.

“If we succeed in transporting more goods by rail, we will also succeed in meeting the European Union’s climate targets. Achieving a 30% share in the continental transport mix for freight trains is possible – with the digitalization and automation of rail transport,” said Dr. Sigrid Nikutta.

Rail is in Europe’s DNA! With more than 260,000 kilometers of rail lines, Europe has the largest continental environmental network in the world.

Dr. Sigrid Nikutta

“Compared to road transport, each freight train emitted 80% to 100% less CO2 and replaced more than 50 trucks at a time, she said. The task now was to digitalize the proven and resilient mode of rail freight transport and further expand rail capacity.

“One key to this is implementing uniform standards for rail in all of Europe. Whether it be installing digital signaling systems such as ETCS or new couplers on freight cars like the Digital Automatic Coupler (DAC), “modernizing rail is a Herculean task that cannot be left to the transport companies or the rules of the market alone.

“Investment in the rail system is worth it – it pays off for climate protection in Europe and the world,” said Nikutta. “A strong Europe is more important than ever in the face of global challenges. And rail makes Europe strong – no other continent has such a dense network.”

“Five years ago, we launched the Noah’s Train art project to bring the climate saver on rails to people’s attention,” said Rail Cargo Group’s CEO Clemens Först. Since then, he said, there had been a new awareness in society and in politics of climate protection. “Transportation is a significant part of the climate problem, and rail is a fundamental part of the solution. That’s why we’re not only driving innovation in rail freight, but also fighting for fair competitive conditions vis-à-vis road transportation and for more capacity in the rail network.”

The alliance is calling for the opportunity to make driving a train across Europe as easy as driving a truck, without rail transport being financially disadvantaged in the process.

At the transport logistic trade show in Munich, the industry is standing together: “The goal of a 30% modal share for climate-friendly rail freight transport can be achieved in just a few years. It can be done if there is support at European level for the huge task of expanding the network and upgrading to digital standards in rail freight,” said Dr. Nikutta.

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