ERRAC was set up in 2001 with the ambitious goal of creating a single European body with both the competence and capability to help evolve the European rail sector and make it more competitive, by fostering increased innovation and guiding research efforts at European level.
Within ERRAC, all major rail stakeholders are gathered including: railway undertakings, infrastructure managers, manufacturers, the European Commission, the European Union Agency for Railways, EU Member States, academics and users’ groups. This enables a broad coverage of all forms of rail transport: from conventional, high speed and freight applications to urban and regional services.
ERRAC’s primary objective is to deliver the common railway sector vision of R&I to the European Institutions and important stakeholders, in order to contribute shaping a favourable funding landscape for railway research and innovation, developing innovation via calls for projects and joint undertaking like Shift2Rail.
ERRAC is currently chaired by Mr Alberto Parrondo (UNIFE, VP Strategy Ground Transportation Systems, Thales), ably supported by deputy chairs Ms Carole Desnost (UIC, Head of Research and Innovation, SNCF) and Professor Sebastian Stichel (Academia, KTH Sweden). Since its start in 2001, ERRAC has produced a number of vision-setting documents. Building on these, the strategy vision document – ‘Rail 2050 Vision’ – was published in December 2017. In autumn 2019, to support the delivery of the strategy, a more action-oriented document was published – ‘Rail 2030 Research and Innovation Priorities’ – available in both full and brief versions.
With a view to ultimately strengthen the overall leadership position of the European railway sector, ERRAC aims at being the single sector voice for railway research and innovation, materialising the concept of a “European Research Area” in this sector where railway research and innovation potential within the Union is optimised.
Promoting the development of sustainable transport solutions with rail as the central focus, in order to support the growing demand for connected mobility in the European Union requires ERRAC to actively collect, understand and channel the needs of end-users of passenger and freight services and the business requirements of sector stakeholders (e.g. the railway operating community, the railway suppliers, etc).
ERRAC is notably in charge of defining and updating the rail sector strategic documents – whose Rail 2050 Vision is the latest document – drawing together the existing strategies and needs of the railway sector stakeholders to extract/produce the R/D/I requirements for the next 20 years taking into account multimodality.
Making the vision a reality, ERRAC is the framework “club” where the sector can develop and establish together a common long-term programme to influence all European railway research stakeholders in the planning of sustainable transport solutions with railways as the central focus, including national and EU programmes, so as to deliver the ambitions of the SRRIA and the Rail 2050 Vision.
To achieve its objectives, ERRAC is liaising with and providing advice to European Institutions such as DG RESEARCH & INNOVATION, DG MOVE, DG ENERGY, DG GROW, DG CONNECT, DG HOME, the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA), Shift2Rail, Transport Advisory Groups (TAG) and Transport Programme Committees (TPC). The ETP’s role is to identify areas where there is potential misalignment between the rail sector’s aspirations and EU policies and make some suggestions to realign them as necessary toward the delivery of the Future European Railway System.
ERRAC has a role to support the implementation of the strategy through communication with the relevant political bodies, fostering joint research initiatives and common innovation projects amongst stakeholders. Innovation can become live thanks to the sources of funding that can be used for railway research, which ERRAC attempts to identify – both existing and new financial streams.
ERRAC has been developing since 2014 a strong collaboration work with the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking. Contributing to support the delivery of its programme, ERRAC is particularly engaged in setting out the argument for Shift2Rail2; the Rail 2050 Vision is in that regard a first stake in the ground from the united sector to call for a continuation of the Joint Undertaking model. This notably goes through a programme “gap” analysis (including social economic, climate change/energy, cities/urbanisation etc) on the basis of feedback from Shift2Rail and the further identification complimentary funding for rail’s innovation needs including work on global trends such as decarbonisation.
Autarkic development not being the most productive way of doing R&I in a world of multimodality, ERRAC constantly seeks to identify areas where greater synergies can be developed between the railway sector and other modes of transport. This mission materialises in the liaison and cooperation with other ETPs (ACARE, ALICE, ERTRAC, WATERBORNE) to promote common approaches that will enhance multimodal research and innovation.
Last but certainly not least, ERRAC has a role to play with the national level of railway research and innovation, actively building consensus and improving synergy between EU, national and private railway research.