The Portuguese Minister for Infrastructure and Housing has advocated “large-scale public investment” in rail transport, infrastructure, rolling stock and services. He pointed out that this is the only way to make it possible “to transfer a significant part of road and air traffic to rail”.
Pedro Nuno Santos was speaking at the launch of the European Year of Rail 2021, from the headquarters of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the Centro Cultural de Belém in Lisbon.
The Minister said that “only the public sector can commit the large sums necessary so that society can reap even greater benefits”, noting that “this progress will not be possible as long as investment levels in Europe remain depressed, as they have been since the economic crisis a decade ago”.
During his speech, Pedro Nuno Santos emphasised that the market alone is not sufficient to respond to the needs of society and that this is why “governments should not limit themselves to the policy instruments they have available to them” for implementing these options.
Recalling that every country in Europe has been increasing investment in rail networks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister believes that this programme — which will be organising a large number of activities across Europe throughout the year — is an opportunity to take “a serious look at the sector” and to “initiate a debate that can show us all, politicians, manufacturers, industry, passengers, workers and, finally, citizens, the best options” to choose.
The European Year of Rail is aimed at discussing the benefits of rail for people, the economy and the climate, and the challenges to the creation of a truly single European rail space, without borders, promoting the use of trains as a safe and sustainable means of transport.
Also taking part in the launch event via video conference were the European Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, and the European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reform, Elisa Ferreira.