1. Cohesion Policy and the European Year of Rail

The year 2021 is the European Year of Rail, aiming at attracting more people and businesses to rail. It is also a chance to put Cohesion policy rail investments in the spotlight.
But first, let's recall why rail is so important for EU citizens and why it will remain so in the future.
EU rail transport is sustainable, safe and provides an extensive  network!

2. Investment in rail is an important priority under cohesion policy

Cohesion policy has invested in rail projects over many years. Promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key transport infrastructures is one of the eleven Thematic Objectives for Cohesion Policy in 2014-2020 and it will be part of one of the five Policy Objectives of the new Cohesion Policy (2021-2027). 
Cohesion policy notably aims to foster cohesion by improving the accessibility of all regions, including by supporting the development of  a Europe-wide network of transports - TEN-T (trans-European network), in particular in regions lagging behind in their infrastructure endowment. In this framework, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund provide significant support to rail investment on the TEN-T rail network and links to TEN-T.  EU support includes addressing existing disparities in connectivity as well as avoiding future disparities in the sustainable and smart transformation of the transport network. Cohesion policy also supports the deployment of rail-based solutions for sustainable and smart regional and local mobility (light rail, metro, tram - Find out more about clean urban transport).  
Cohesion policy's role goes beyond financing. 
  • It is implemented in a partnership approach and stimulates good cooperation and coordination between EU, national, regional and local levels. This is necessary for an integrated development of all layers of the network;
  • It offers a platform for effective cross-border cooperation of regions (Interreg);
  • It ensures that transport projects are integrated into multi-annual and cross-sectoral investment strategies.

3. Financial overview of EU rail investments

Planned amount by EU Fund

For the 2014-2020 programming period, most of the rail investments are stemming from the Cohesion Fund (CF).
In total, about €18 billion are planned to be injected in rail projects throughout the EU. This represents more than a quarter (27,1% in 2019) of all Cohesion Policy investments in the transport sector.

Furthermore, in the period 2014-2020, the Cohesion Fund transferred EUR 11.3 billion to the Connecting European Facility. This amount is almost entirely dedicated to rail investments. Find out more about  CEF-Transport 

Member States have set different rail investment priorities

Rail investment covers different intervention fields. The 4 intervention fields monitored by Cohesion Policy relate to the following investments :
  • railways of the core trans-European network (TEN-T Core) (code 024)
  • railways of the comprehensive trans-European network (TEN-T comprehensive) (code 025)
  • other rail investment (code 026)
  • mobile rail assets (code 027)
Member States (MS) plan different investment level for each intervention field:

... these plans can change over time 

The chart below shows the total allocations at the end of each year. In aggregate the changes are small until the end 2019. In 2020 however, overall investments in rail projects slightly decreased. This is principally as a result of the reallocations to support the COVID19-pandemic response, in particular to reinforcing allocations to the immediate public health response and support to SMEs. By using the filters on the top right of the chart, you can see what were the changes at national level.

An overview of progress in financing rail investment

Rail investments are monitored through the allocations made to the 4 intervention fields through national and regional programmes.  Apart from the planned amounts, the programmes report annually on the decided amounts (allocated to selected projects in the project pipeline) and spent amounts (by the selected projects). 
The filters in the charts below allow users
  • To look at investment progress annually from 2016 onwards (you can see changes in the planned amounts arising from formal reprogramming);  
  • To isolate the specific funds; 
  • To filter for one or more Member State.

Tracking investments by programme

The monitoring system also allows users to look at progress in rail investment budgets in specific programmes.

TIP: Click and drag the chart upwards to see more programme, or use the filters on the top right of the chart. 

4. Tracking rail deliverables

In the period 2014-2020 two common indicators are used to track rail investments. These common indicators focus on measuring kilometers of reconstructed railway (CO12) and kilometers of new railway (CO11).  Rail reconstruction is by far the most important priority linked to modernising the pre-existing rail networks. The construction of new railways is rather the exception. 
In 2014-2020 the subset of these two indicators linked to the TEN-T railway network is also reported as indicators CO12a and CO11a. Explore the charts below to compare the targets with implementation over time. Note that targets vary over time due to the reshuffling of programmes' investment priorities and of selected projects.
Historically the delivery of the bulk of railway construction and reconstruction takes place late in a programme period in view of the long planning and implementation phases for the large scale projects in particular.
Apart from these common indicators, programmes use specific national / regional indicators to track outputs linked to other rail deliverables such as investments in rolling stock, railway stations, depots and in ERTMS (European Railway Traffic Management System). Programme-specific indicators cannot easily be aggregated as they have different definitions, but they may still capture information on important investments. 

Km of rail targeted for reconstruction (indicator CO12)

of which TEN-T
(indicator CO12a, a subset of CO12)

Km of new rail targeted (indicator CO11)

of which TEN-T
(indicator CO11a, a subset of CO11)

5. Project examples

Integrating transport modes in the cities of Gdańsk and Gdynia (under construction)
The second phase of this EU-funded project will complete the construction of some 16.97 kilometers of double-track, non-electrified railway line in the Pomorskie region of Poland. The line aims to significantly improve passenger services in the region and help to fully integrate air and urban transport in the cities of Gdańsk and Gdynia. Find out more.
High speed railway line between Antequera and Granada (completed)
A major project backed by the ERDF is providing the last section of platform for completion of the railway line between the cities of Antequera and Granada in southern Spain. The project includes various supplies, track assembly, electrification, signalling and telecommunications installations. Find out more.   

Upgrades made to vital Romanian railway (under construction)
The EU’s Cohesion Fund is financing the modernisation of a 141 km double-track section of a railway crossing Romania, from the Hungarian border at Curtici to Constanța on the Black Sea. The section – in the west of the country – runs from km 614 of the line to the town of Simeria. Upgrades and curvature adjustments will increase the top speed to 160 km/h, with an average speed for longer-distance trains of close to that. Completion of the upgrade is planned for 2023. Find out more.

Modernisation of the railway line between Warsaw and Lublin (under construction)
The project to modernise Poland’s railway line number 7 between the capital, Warsaw and the city of Lublin is underway. The first phase covers the stretch of track between the town of Otwock and Lublin. The upgrade of this section, which is is just under 150 kilometres in length, has received financial backing from the European Union. The modernisation of the entire line should be achieved by 2022. Find out more here and here.

Spanish section of Madrid-Lisbon high-speed railway (under construction)
All elements necessary for commissioning the 178.6 km Plasencia-Cáceres-Badajoz section of the Madrid-Lisbon high-speed railway are being put into place under an EU-funded project. The track is being assembled; the line is being electrified; and safety, signalling, telecommunications and auxiliary installations are being set up. The Madrid-Lisbon line will have a total length of 715 km, of which 465 km will be in Spain, running through the autonomous communities of Madrid, Castile-La Mancha and Extremadura. The realisation of the project is planned for 2022. Find out more.

More information

NB: This article does not include the rail component of the EUR 11.3 Billion transferred from the Cohesion Fund to the Connecting Europe Facility for the period 2014-2020. Those investments are not monitored under cohesion policy rules. 
Find more #ESIFOpenData stories here.


We are REGIO's sustainable growth team. Contact us at: 
(European Commission, Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, Smart and Sustainable Growth Unit)
Author:       Jean Subtil
Text Date: February 2021