The declaration of the year 2021 as the European Year of Railways has given rise to initiatives such as this one, where the European Commission has chartered this “Connecting Europe Express” to promote sustainable transport and attract more users to this means of transport.
ALE has participated in the Opening Ceremony and the departure event from the Oriente Station in Lisbon (Portugal) as well as its route to Spain, passing through Madrid and Irun with the border crossing in Hendaye, from where it continues its journey through France.
It is striking, and has been reported in several media, that this train runs along the same route as several trains (Lusitania, Surex, etc.) which were cancelled because of the pandemic and have not been restored.
It is also striking that the train was made up of several Talgo IV – 4B12 carriages, withdrawn from circulation months ago and, it seems, condemned to disappear after this short journey.
The implementation of initiatives such as this one should not only serve to connect cities, but also to connect people, to attract citizens to this means of transport and to generate employment in an eco-sustainable and environmentally friendly mode of transport such as the railway. Currently, Madrid and Lisbon are two major European capitals that are not connected by rail.
Meeting the objectives of the 2030 Agenda and the “modal shift to rail” will not be possible as long as a multitude of rail traffic continues without returning to our tracks throughout Europe.
The existing reality of our European rail network has also been highlighted, where the interoperability promoted by the 4th Railway Package is a chimera. Up to 3 different compositions have been necessary to be able to operate the Connecting Europe Express throughout the continent, a situation that even the European Commission’s own Commissioner for Transport, Adina Valean, referred to.
The promotion of Connecting, as a long-distance commercial service, is a reminder that there are still countries that have not yet liberalised their services in accordance with the European Directives and that there is a mismatch between the opening of the market in some countries and the same in their neighbours.
All of the above leads us to claim that there is a profound effect on all railway collectives, with special attention to that of train drivers, given the lack of traffic and a real commitment to the railway, despite the declaration of 2021 as the European year of our means of transport and the initiatives associated with it.
From ALE, we will continue to promote the generation of quality employment, under standards of Safety, Training and Professionalism, which will make this year a reality that is not only reflected on paper.