European Year of Rail 2021 – Council agrees its position in support of the initiative

Next year is set to be the European Year of Rail, which will feature a range of events and campaigns to attract more people and goods to railways. The Permanent Representatives Committee today agreed on a negotiating mandate on the proposal, which aims to promote this green, safe and innovative mode of transport as a key element in the shift to sustainable and smart mobility.

Environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient, rail will play a crucial role in helping the EU become climate neutral by 2050. The COVID-19 crisis has also shown how rail transport can facilitate the supply of essential goods such as medical devices, food and fuel in exceptional circumstances.

Oleg Butković, Croatian Minister for the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, President of the Council

Main changes introduced by the Council

In its position, the Council has added several important themes to the Year of Rail initiative, such as the role of railways in end-to-end mobility, how to increase the capacity of railway infrastructure, and informing rail passengers of their rights and of the availability of through-ticketing.

The Council has tasked the Commission with considering launching a feasibility study on the creation of a European label to promote goods transported by rail. Such a label would also encourage businesses to switch their transport to rail. The Commission is to inform of its plans by the end of March 2021.

The Council has also made the evaluation of the results of the Year of Rail activities more robust by introducing the use of key performance indicators. The Commission is to use such indicators for its report, which is due by the end of 2022.

Next steps

The mandate agreed today will allow the incoming presidency to start negotiations with the European Parliament on the final text.


Transport accounts for a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, and emissions from transport are still growing. To achieve the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 – as set out in the European Green Deal and endorsed by the European Council – transport emissions must go down by 90%.

Rail emits far less CO2 than equivalent travel by road or air, and it is the only mode of transport that has consistently reduced its greenhouse gas emissions since 1990.

At present, 75% of inland freight is carried by road.

Regarding EU rail transport policy, 2021 will be the first full year when the rules agreed under the Fourth Railway Package will be implemented throughout the EU. These rules are designed to open up the domestic passenger services market and reduce costs and the administrative burden for railway undertakings operating across the EU.

A link to the Council text will be added to this press release on our website.