Rail Freight Forward Coalition: Message spread across Europe from COP24 to COP25

06 December 2019


What started in December 2018 as an initiative by five railways undertakings at the UN COP24 Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, has turned into a strong European movement composed of 15 members. Rail Freight Forward’s campaign “Noah’s Train” has been spreading its message to double the volumes of goods transported by rail for the climate across Europe for a year, and wishes to strongly reaffirm it at the UN COP25 Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain. Europe must increase its freight’s modal share to at least 30% by 2030 to drastically reduce the negative impact of freight transport on the planet and mobility.

The vision of climate-friendly goods transport

Rail Freight Forward is a pan-European initiative. The aim is to communicate to the public and policymakers in Europe that rail freight transport is an essential response to the challenge of climate change. Transport is one of the biggest sources of CO2 pollution and the greenhouse effect. Shifting freight transport to rail is the quickest and most direct way to combat even more CO2 emissions and climate pollution. There is still a lot to be done for this modal shift, starting with  a need for fair competition conditions between rail and road through, for example, tax relief for traction current and clear European-wide toll rules for road transports. Further progress must be made to harmonize procedures and regulations at EU level and reduce interfaces at national borders. This should increase competitiveness vis-à-vis the truck, which does not have these hurdles. If not, Europe won’t reach the climate goals of the 2016 Paris Agreement.

Rail Freight Forward (RFF) and Noah’s Train: one year on

Rail Freight Forward has already made great achievements in the space of just one year. With 16 stops in cities across Europe and a total of 19 containers beautifully spray-painted with animals from all over the world, the coalition’s climate ambassador – Noah’s Train – has been spreading the message of ‘30 by 2030’[1] since its launch at the COP24 in December 2018. At over 200 metres in length, Noah’s Train has become the world’s longest mobile artwork. It has brought the RFF message to at least 1 million European citizens via traditional and social media, with an ever-increasing number of followers and supporters. Ten more European RUs joined the coalition over the course of the year; the movement is growing and momentum is building to help protect our climate by shifting more freight transport from road to rail.   

National achievements in Belgium

Rail Freight Forward has succeeded in creating a Europe-wide “coalition of the willing”. A first for Europe. Next to campaigning on a European level, the railway undertakings are working on multiple initiatives nationally.

Together with the other rail freight companies active in Belgium, Lineas founded the Belgian Rail Freight Forum. By working to increase the share of rail freight transport in Belgium from 10% to 16%, their end goal is to transform the transport sector into an intelligent multimodal system with rail as its backbone. A first action took place in July 2019, when the rail operators joined forces with Febetra and presented measures to incite more multimodal transportation. By compensating the transhipment cost for road hauliers in the form of a cheque for EUR 40 for every unit switched to rail – an investment of 30 million euros per year – the government can shift 6% of the volume currently transported by truck to the railways. Measures for road hauliers who invest in appropriate infrastructure or equipment, can further enable this modal shift.

Rail Freight Forward: www.railfreightforward.eu

Belgian Rail Freight Forum: www.railfreight.be

[1] The ambition of Rail Freight Forward is to increase the modal share of rail freight to at least 30% by 2030.