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Implementing Change in the European Railway System

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Network corridors
Total project cost
€7 012 421
EU Contribution
€6 097 775
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
Rail icon
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Call for proposal
Link to CORDIS
Background & Policy context

The REORIENT project assessed the process of transforming the European railways from nationally fragmented into internationally integrated rail operating systems as a consequence of the EC interoperability legislation. By so doing, it supported the EU policy of balancing modal split between road and rail freight transport.

The research framework of REORIENT took the external driving forces as premises for changes that would happen with or without EC-legislation. It distinguished between changes brought about through the EC legislation and areas that, though they might be important, are not affected by the policies. The main focus was that that EU railway directives are implemented into the national institutional and legal frameworks, resulting in market opening. This has consequences for the rail freight transport system with its links, terminals, border-crossings and rolling stock. The vertical dimension was explored by means of country-studies, where the focus was on how each country adapts to the global economy, newly introduced EC-legislation, and the resulting market response. The relationship between the legislation and market behaviour was explored. The horizontal dimension of the markets, the routes, border crossings, terminals and transfer points are no less important. Analyses of the market opportunities with in the REORIENT Corridor, and the service requirements that must be fulfilled to attract freight was analysed. Moreover new service concepts were developed. New business models were explored. Here, US-experience with respect to the driving forces for change in the rail freight industry has been important. That experience formed the basis for European studies contrasting the US scene with the changes in Europe. The barriers to increased freight volumes have been identified and the potential impact of barrier removal assessed. An evaluation framework for studying the various impacts of new rail services and barrier reductions was described.


The primary objectives of the REORIENT project were:

  1. to identify and develop business concepts for trans-European rail freight transport that will make it more competitive with road transport, and
  2. to assess the extent to which the EC's interoperability legislation contributes to successful implementation of the business concepts.

The project was divided in three parts:

  • In Part A, REORIENT identified the target countries' political and administrative bodies responsible for interoperability implementation and identified barriers encountered in this process. It captured progress in interoperability between country blocks to define their ability to remove interstate inter-rail discrepancies. Since interoperability required significant investments, REORIENT set out to define the tolerance margins national politicians enjoy to channel scarce economic resources to the rail sector in competition with other social needs.
  • This knowledge was used in Part B to review progress in interoperability of up to ten trans-European corridors, leading to a selection of three most advanced in flow efficiency pipelines for later demonstration. REORIENT established user modal selection criteria, devised measures to target interoperability barriers and evaluated results of efforts involving modal shifts and infrastructure improvements.
  • This work was the foundation for defining in Part C a dedicated rail freight network for demonstration of a range of seamless international freight movements during the associated Integrated Project. A monitoring scheme was devised to capture time-paced interoperability dynamics across Europe and to provide substance to policy makers for tuning their policy with contextual developments. Ongoing support was provided to the Integrated Project.

REORIENT contained 11 technical workpackages. The REORIENT team had 10 members and 25 participants from Europe, Russia and the United States to provide a broad base of expertise.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission
Type of funding
Public (EU)



Generally, scores for the requirements are higher (i.e., the requirements are better met) in the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland) and lower in new Member States and Greece. Overall, it is clear that there is considerable variation in interoperability status across the countries. However, excluding the category 'Technical interoperability according to TSI's', it appears that practically all countries are doing a reasonable job of complying with the requirements of the Directives. (There has been no substantial progress in TSI im­plementation in any country so far).

Implementation condi­tions/barriers were distinguished within the following seven categories:

  • P: Political conditions/barriers.
  • A: Administrative conditions/barriers.
  • S: Social/cultural conditions/barriers.
  • T: Technical conditions/barriers.
  • F: Conditions/barriers related to the financial perspective.
  • M: Conditions/barriers related to the market perspective.
  • I: Institutional& organisational conditions/barriers.

Overall, in terms of ability, the implemen­tation conditions are generally less than adequate. (On average, the abilities are adequate in an average of only about 4 of the 11 countries.) However, there are severe limitations in very few cases. The biggest barrier to implementing the EU's interoperability Directives is clearly financial. With respect to the subcategory interest, a different scale was used to define the scores. A country's interest was rated as favourable, neutral, or unfavourable. In most countries and most categories, the interest in implementing the Directives was found to be neutral. However, there do appear to be some strong social/cultural barriers to implementation in many countries.

Although there was considerable variation in the status of interoperability across the eleven countries along the REORIENT Corridor on practically all of the interoperability requirements, there was also considerable variation in the status of the implementation conditions across the countries. As a result, it was found that most of the variability in status was able to be explained by relationships that were found to exist between the requirements and the implementation conditions.

The relationships between implementation conditions and the requirements in the first three requirement categories are quite different from the relationships between implementation conditions

Technical Implications

See key results

Policy implications

Intermodal rail freight divisions of CER and UICC should use the survey results to mobilise popular support for rail freight using media and other channels. They should emphasize rail's ability to solve problems and the improvement potential of rail, more than the fact that long haulage truck transport causes problems. They should promote European identity building in the area of transport. In the Scandinavian countries they should emphasize rail freight transport's ability to solve EC-problems in West Europe more than those in the Scandinavian countries. When rail is not competing against health, education, crime prevention and other highly prioritised areas, the EC and national governments will find it easier to obtain social support for intermodal rail freight solutions when these are seen as a package deal where the EC (and/or other countries contribute) along trans-European Corridors.

New road infrastructure through important nature areas should not be heavily subsidized. National governments should assist rail freight and train operators in securing hub terminal areas that are less in conflict with noise and nature. Operators need be aware of potential conflicts due to maintenance activities.

There is the need for:

  1. More intra-rail competition between national and international rail freight operators will increase intermodal rivalry.
  2. Opening of rail market for financial capital inflow from private investors will increase service quality, and chances for intermodal rivalry.
  3. Unification of rail infrastructure charges along trans-European corridors will increase operation­al profitability and application of ICT solutions for enhanced rail competitiveness.

The competitiveness of rail is at the edge. Rail shares are more sensitive to changes in the quality of transport than road. Change processes are also self-reinforcing. This suggests that measures to improve rail need to be implemented quickly, to give them a better chance of succeeding. Improved rail transport quality may quickly exceed critical levels for attracting a greater segment of shippers' freight needs.

The EC and national governments should encourage a market structure with several large shippers. These have the competence, access to equipment and wagons allowing a larger share of the shipments to go by rail. We are here only considering rail share.

Reducing entry costs for small companies by providing them access to flat cars for transporting their semi-trailer


Lead Organisation
Ingeniera De Sistemas Para La Defensa De Espana Sa
Edison, 4, 28028 MADRID, Spain
Organisation website
Partner Organisations
Institute Of Transport Economics
Grensesvingen, 7, OSLO, Norway
EU Contribution
Deutsches Zentrum Fr Luft Und Raumfahrt E.v
Linder Hoehe, 51147 KOELN, Germany
Organisation website
EU Contribution
Alma Mater Studiorum - Universita Di Bologna
Via Zamboni 33, 40126 Bologna, Italy
Organisation website
EU Contribution
University Of Maryland
EU Contribution
Demis B.v.
Kluyverweg 2a, DELFT, Netherlands
EU Contribution
Napier University
Colinton road 219, EDINBURG, EH14 1DJ, United Kingdom
EU Contribution


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