© ÖBB Andreas Scheiblecker

The time is ripe for the green reconstruction of Europe

The European Commission, the Austrian Federal Railway (ÖBB) and the Minister for Climate Action have unveiled today the EU-Lok, a train decked out in its own special EU livery, and have sent it out on its first inaugural trip. The launch marks the 25th anniversary of Austria’s entry into the EU and clearly symbolises the strength of European unity.

The EU-Lok sets off on the right track! To mark the 25th anniversary of Austria’s entry into the EU, the European Commission and the ÖBB have launched a train with its own special EU livery. It was inaugurated today at the ÖBB motorail hub at Vienna Central Station. The ceremony was attended by the Minister for Climate Action Leonore Gewessler, the European Commission’s Chief Representative to Austria Martin Selmayr, the CEO of ÖBB Andreas Matthä, several EU officials, and a number of eminent guests from the political and diplomatic arena. Immediately after the inauguration ceremony, the 10,000 HP EU-Lok entered into service. From today, the train will be travelling the railway lines of Austria and will serve as an important symbol for the European Green Deal, which aims to transform the European continent into a low-carbon economy by 2050 at the latest.

The Minister for Climate Action Leonore Gewessler commented, “The train’s livery will act as a strong reminder of Austria’s 25-year membership of the EU. I think that the train is a wonderful way to symbolise this. And to symbolise freedom of movement throughout Europe as well as the huge challenges posed by climate change, which the EU states are combatting together.”

“The time is ripe for an ambitious deal on the green reconstruction of Europe,” emphasised Martin Selmayr, the European Commission’s Chief Representative to Austria, pointing to the current EU negotiations on the reconstruction plan. The European Commission put forward a proposal to the 27 member states and the European Parliament at the end of May designed to propel Europe’s recovery from the deep economic recession caused by the COVID-19. Martin Selmayr believes that it is impossible for any EU state to overcome the crisis alone. “Europe needs to invest jointly in the future and strengthen the single market. Its close connection to prosperous neighbouring states has proven to guarantee prosperity, especially for Austria, over the past 25 years. The purpose of EU-Lok’s new design is to remind us of that. I am pleased that we could work together with ÖBB to achieve this. The ÖBB has also played a key role in helping to realise the objectives of the programme run by the Austrian government in conjunction with EU institutions, by helping to transport as many young people as possible to Brussels and Strasbourg in an environmentally-friendly way so they can experience European institutions at first hand.“

Andreas Matthä fully appreciates the importance of the ÖBB in the fight against climate change. “We must combat the huge challenge of making transport in Europe more climate-friendly. Trains serve as an environmentally friendly alternative to cars, planes and lorries. This means that rail travel plays an extremely important role.” The ÖBB saves more than 4 million tonnes of CO2 each year. As President of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), Andreas Matthä stresses that, “Europe doesn’t just need even more railways to combat the huge challenge of climate change, the railways also need more Europe. This also applies to rail transport where boundaries must be overcome in the future, both in technological and regulatory terms.”

The new EU-Lok is a powerful symbol of the close cooperation between the railways and Europe. As it travels all around Austria, it will symbolise environmental protection and cross-border travel.

EU to invest billions in rail infrastructure
The EU is funding development projects and improvements to rail infrastructure all across Europe. Around 23 billion euros was invested in transport projects between 2014 and 2019 from the Connecting Europe Facility fund. Around 70% (16 billion euros) of the fund was invested in the rail sector. Austria received 742 million euros of funding to develop passenger and freight rail transport. For example, funding has been granted to the Koralm Railway, which is part of the Baltic-Adriatic transport corridor, and the Brenner Base Tunnel as well as for the retrofitting of freight wagons with ‘whisper brakes’ designed to reduce noise pollution. Over the next budgetary period running from 2021 to 2027, which will be the focus of negotiations at the European Council over the coming weeks, climate-friendly mobility and the development of rail infrastructure will play a crucial role. In addition, the European Commission is proposing channelling 25% of the funds budgeted for 2021–2027 towards projects intended to combat climate change.

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