The European Commission has to address the major societal issues for a more competitive European transport system, such as rising traffic demand, congestion, security of energy supply and climate change . A White Paper of the Commission was then published in 2011 and presented a set of objectives to reinforce railway transportation:
• For rail passenger:
- By 2020, establishment of the framework for a European multimodal transport information, management and payment system;
- By 2030, triply of the length of the existing High Speed rail network for, by 2050, a majority of medium-distance passenger transport by rail (outpace aviation for journeys up to 1000 km);
- By 2050, connection of all core network airports to the rail network, preferably High Speed.
• For freight transportation:
- By 2030, translation of 30 % of road freight over 300 Km to other modes such as rail or waterborne transport, and more than 50 % by 2050;
- Doubling of rail freight compared to 2005;
- By 2030, deployment of ERTMS on the European Core Network;
- By 2050, connection of all seaports to the rail freight system;
- Rail Freight Corridors as the backbone of the EU freight transport system.
The overall challenge of the European rail sector is the strengthening of the rail sector in the European transport system, by facing and outpacing road and air sectors. To do this, the sector has to face a number of challenges :
• A Quality of Service and attractiveness challenge, by increasing the Quality of Service of the rail and improving services and customer quality, for both rail passenger and freight;
• A cost and competitiveness challenge, by reduction life-cycle cost of the railway system, and creating for instance new business opportunities;
• A fragmentation of national rail markets challenge, by developing the interoperable unique European rail system;
• An infrastructure challenge, by the need to invest in new solutions to overcome the environmental issues, such as noise and vibration;
• A know-how challenge, with the challenge of the availability of skilled people;
• An innovation challenge, by taking advantage of rail advantages in terms of environment performance, safety and efficiency.