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Technical perspectives of rail transport

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Complete with results
Project Acronym
F4 (NRP 41)
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
Rail icon
Transport sectors
Passenger transport


Background & Policy context

The NRP 41 was launched by the Federal Council at the end of 1995 to improve the scientific basis on which Switzerland's traffic problems might be solved, taking into account the growing interconnection with Europe, ecological limits, and economic and social needs. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />

The NRP 41 aimed to become a think-tank for sustainable transport policy. Each one of the 54 projects belongs to one of the following six modules:

  • A Mobility: Socio-institutional Aspects
  • B Mobility: Socio-economical Aspects
  • C Environment: Tools and Models for Impact Assessments
  • D Political and Economic Strategies and Prerequisites 
  • E Traffic Management: Potentials and Impacts
  • F Technologies: Potentials and Impacts
  • M Materials
  • S Synthesis Projects

The strong growth of mobility (in the sense of physical transport of passengers and goods) in the recent decades produced an intense increase of traffic-caused pollution, while the acceptance of this pollution has decreased. Even though railways appear as a powerful and ecologically solution. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />

Hard competition between rail, road and air transport has decreased the railways importance in the passenger traffic market severely.

An increase of the railways market share is necessary and is under way by introducing high-speed trains. But to increase the importance of railways overall Europe further efforts are necessary and are partly under way. Current progresses are based on intense research in different branches.

An overview and the identification of possible combinations of these developments is hardly possible and complicated due to the very long life of the elements in the railway system. Often, the benefit for the whole railway system is not in the foreground.

Priority must be a customer orientated and demand based offer of the whole public transport service.

The current research has to focus on the needs and demands of the potential future traffic market and a corresponding position of the railways in the whole public transport chain.


This study is split into two main parts: <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />

  • The first part analyses today's traffic market in the long distance passenger transport. The future developing of this market is being elaborated with scenarios over two steps up to 2017. The results are being summarised in a catalogue of requirements with the main goals 'competitiveness' and 'ecological friendliness'.
  • The second part contains the analysis and assessment of technical developments till 2017 in view of the requirements elaborated in the first part. The variety of possible developments is being outlined and the market opportunities and environmental impacts considered.

The aim of the overall view and prospective study is to analyse the technical developments of rail transport (especially in the long distance passenger traffic) in the next 20 years.

For that, the application and its market effects should be examined not only in Switzerland, but also in the whole European rail transport market. Technical contributions to the general demand of a better market position of rail transport should be shown.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
Swiss National Science Foundation SNF
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


This study makes clear that in case of the long distance passenger transport the transport system rail has the possibility and also the technological potential to keep its market position and even to extend it considerably.


The correct assessment of the frame conditions in the different time horizons and the consequent evaluation and use of technologies of other branches for the system rail is necessary for the successful realisation of a growth-strategy.


The expenditure for developing and using efficient technology in the fields of material, proceeding and especially automatisation, management and telecommunication technology has to be reduced decisive. The time between testing and using a system has to be shortened.


In the next 15 to 20 years the system rail is to be built up to a high efficient and flexible transportation system, which is using most recent technologies in all areas, that is extremely non-polluting and careful with resources and which fits seamless into the transport chain of public transport.

On condition that the policy guaranties fair starting conditions for the competition of all means of transport, it makes it possible for the railways to react in an ideal way to changes in demand with special strategies of supply.


Near future:


In the near future the most important challenges exist in the area of reduction of costs for tracks and rolling stock.


This means the continuation of installation of new kind of tracks and optimisation of maintenance for the existing tracks.

In the field of rolling stock the main emphasis has to be the increasing of the amount of standardised elements and modules in order to reduce the acquisition and operation costs.


As a result of first realisations of the new ECTS/ERTMS technology, the transition between different networks has to succeed while in parallel to the increasing of capacity of the existing infrastructure.


Together with the use of tilting technology, new concepts in train management and network separation (split-off HST) has to take place.


Finally competitive travel times in long distance traffic should result.


Further future:


During and after the period of consolidation it can be begun to use the technological efforts in the fields of autom

Policy implications

Consequences for the actors: Considerable efforts for the railways are necessary to achieve better efficiency and market penetration in the production.

The infrastructure owners have to reduce the infrastructure usage costs and have to apply an optimal slot usage management.

The authorities as a neutral instance have to regulate the modalities for the access to the infrastructure.

They also have to protect the national and regional interest.

The industry and research have to develop the technical solutions in close cooperation of all concerned.


Key Findings
No results directly relevant to this theme. However, please note that some findings relevant to the project's key theme (Long-distance) are generically applicable.

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Policy Implications
No policy implications directly relevant to this theme. However, please note that some policy implications relevant to the pro


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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