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Urban Rail

Urban rail transit (e.g. light rail, rapid transit, commuter rail, metro rail) is an important component of urban mobility and transport. With relatively low lifecycle emissions, electrified rail transport is considered to be key for the reduction of emissions in transport in general, and also in urban areas.  


Railway networks in urban and suburban areas play a prominent role in major cities and highly dense urban areas, serving the daily needs of citizens and offering an attractive alternative to the use of private car in congested and polluted areas. Due to the way that rail infrastructure works, rail transport is usually associated with multimodal journeys, with commuters making a long part of their urban and suburban journey on it.  


Challenges for urban rail transit include the need to offer increased capacity to an increasing number of passengers, which can be achieved through improved system capacity, enhanced traffic management and automation concepts, as well as new high-capacity rolling stock. Moreover, increasing the attractiveness of urban rail transport is another major challenge, taking into account the cost of service, comfort, and security.  It is expected that improvements in IT solutions, alongside adaptation of rail communication protocols to platforms dedicated to multimodal services, can enable innovative services and thus improve the attractiveness and provide an incentive for a modal shift from more polluting transportation means (7)


Most of the rail research in the EU for the 7th Framework Programme and Horizon 2020 has been carried out within the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking, which was succeeded by the Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking for Horizon Europe (2), with several pilots in urban and suburban settings.  


The basic solutions for urban rail implementation and deployment have already available in the market for the past decades. However, there are several emerging technologies which are expected to greatly increase urban rail services and make it more attractive to citizens. The Europe’s Rail 2022-2024 Work Programme (9) lists numerous enabling technologies researched. Some examples with their technology readiness levels (TRLs): 

  • PINTA3 (g) has carried out demonstrators for metro use, of a new generation traction converter based on advanced semiconductor technologies which leads to reduction in weight and size and increase in energy efficiency for metro - TRL 7. 

  • Next generation train control management systems for metro are being tested in CONNECTA-3 (h), with wireless communication and improved reliability and reduced costs – TRL 6. 

  • New health monitoring systems that enable condition based maintenance of the track with novel sensor systems and innovative algorithms have been developed in the RUN2Rail project (i), achieving TRL6. 

  • The technical demonstrators from the innovation programme  Shift2Rail (10) on IT solutions for attractive railway services have achieved TRL 6/7 for achieving IT solutions to encourage multimodal travel and mobility as a service.  

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Transport and mobility
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