Future trends in rail travel: news from Rail Tec Europe 2021

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This year's Rail Tec Europe event took place virtually in the form of a digital forum. For five days, the event covered all rail sectors, from how the industry can improve to attract passengers to the impact the pandemic has had on passenger numbers.

During two seminars "What are the expectations after Covid-19? and "Travellers' behaviour during and after Covid-19" the importance of attracting passengers back to the railway and what can be done to achieve this goal was discussed, as well as the change towards more individuals preferring teleworking to commuting to the office.

Introduction of new materials

The introduction of new materials on train surfaces, such as handrails, could increase passengers' optimism about train safety. In fact, a new foil material containing silver and copper has been discussed which, according to researchers, can eliminate most viruses and bacteria that come into contact with its surface, an extremely useful property for those surfaces that are touched by hundreds of different people during the day. It remains to be seen which is the most cost-effective way to introduce it, as the economic impact, considering the value of the source material, is significant. However, the benefits would be very significant.

Increased congestion on the roads

During the pandemic, car travel became more attractive and this saw the second-hand car industry flourish. Many people have chosen to replace train travel with travel in the comfort of their own car, which they consider to be safer.

Surveys in the Netherlands investigating the switch from train to car revealed that about 10% of the participants actually bought an alternative mode of transport, 50% of this 10% did so to specifically replace train travel.

This trend obviously means more vehicles on the roads, which presents congestion problems, and analysts expect that this situation will soon become unsustainable, making cars a less attractive means of transport, which could potentially cause a gradual return to rail services.

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