The European Commission this month announced a call for expressions of interest for new members of the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking.
Shift2Rail plans to invest just under €1 billion in research and innovation in the next six years for getting more passengers and freight onto Europe's railways.
Shift2rail was established on 7 July 2014 after the European Council adopted a regulation setting up the public-private partnership, to manage a research and innovation programme to support the development of better rail services in Europe.
The call aims to identify partners who will work with the Commission and eight founding members of Shift2Rail to deliver new technologies to increase the quality, reliability and punctuality of rail services while also slashing their costs and facilitating cross-border travel.
This is in addition to the Commission's proposals to improve the quality of rail services by market opening and improvements to technical interoperability and approval under the 4th Railway Package.
The founding members of the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking are rail equipment manufacturers Alstom, Ansaldo STS, Bombardier, Siemens, Thales and CAF, as well as infrastructure managers Trafikverket and Network Rail, who have already confirmed that they will each make a contribution of at least €30 million to the Shift2Rail initiative (total €270 million).
It is hoped that the new members contribute a further €200 million.
Seeking to attract a diverse range of new members
The Joint Undertaking is seeking to attract more members from across Europe (as well as countries associated to the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme) ready to commit, a combined total of at least €200 million, with a view to achieving the objectives set out in the draft Shift2Rail strategic Master Plan, which was approved by the Governing Board of the Joint Undertaking on 24 September 2014 and will be submitted to the Council for endorsement.
This plan identifies priority research and innovation activities to achieving a Single European Railway Area, plus it aims to enhance the attractiveness and competitiveness of the European railway system. It is organised around five key "Innovation Programmes" (see below): cost-efficient and reliable trains and high capacity infrastructure, advanced traffic management and control systems as well as IT Solutions for Attractive Railway Services and Technologies for Sustainable and Attractive European Freight.
The Commission hopes to achieve a good geographical balance, as well as balanced participation of SMEs, of the research community and of actors from the entire rail value chain, including from outside the traditional rail sector in this call.
Interested candidates have until 12 November to submit their applications. The Commission foresees that the final selection of associated members should be known in early 2015.
The work conducted within the Shift2Rail framework will be structured, first of all, around five asset-specific Innovation Programmes (IPs), covering all the different structural (technical) and functional (process) sub-systems of the rail system, namely:
IP1: Cost-efficient and Reliable Trains, including high capacity trains and high speed trains;
IP2: Advanced Traffic Management & Control Systems;
IP3: Cost-efficient, Sustainable and Reliable High Capacity Infrastructure;
IP4: IT Solutions for Attractive Railway Services;
IP5: Technologies for Sustainable & Attractive European Freight.
These five Innovation Programmes form ‘a whole assembly of the railway system, with a number of common cross-cutting themes and the R&I activities of the Joint Undertaking have to be managed in the most efficient way to allow the full coverage of all areas while ensuring a high degree of efficiency in the management of the technical activities’.
Major funding opportunity for railway applications
At the launch, the UK’s Rail Industry Association (RIA) described Shift2Rail as representing “by far the largest ever co-funded investment in railway technology development that the EU has ever undertaken.”
“It is a major opportunity for companies to be co-funded (and in some case wholly funded) to develop innovative technology for railway applications, and to be an integral part of the strengthening of Europe’s railway supply industry.”
A second formal meeting of the S2R JU Governing Board was held on 15 October and the recruitment of staff has begun, including publication of the vacancy notice for the Executive Director, who will be on board towards the second quarter of 2015.