Adopt holistic and comprehensive policies, including “push” and “pull” fiscal instruments, and set clear targets to foster rail competitiveness and induce modal shift
Clear policies and targets to achieve "avoid", "shift" and "improve" measures can accelerate the decarbonisation of mobility. Making rail more viable is not only a matter of investing in trains and tracks, but also requires measures to tame traffic. Fiscal measures such as congestion charges and emission taxes, applied primarily to roadways and aviation, and based on the use of the transport network and externalities, can directly increase the competitiveness of rail. Additionally, low-carbon fuel blending mandates in road and aviation sectors also make rail transportation more economically attractive. For instance, removing fossil fuel subsidies and internalising the environmental and social externalities of aviation through a tax levied on aviation fuels would help level the playing field and make high-speed rail more cost-competitive for long-distance travel.
Meanwhile, some share of the revenues generated from fuel taxes, parking fees, road pricing and tolls can be invested in rail infrastructure and can encourage modal shift by reducing the appeal of private vehicle use. Similarly, proceeds from transport taxation (e.g. vehicle purchase and registration taxes) could be allocated to rail improvements and extensions.
Discounted passenger train tickets, such as the EUR 49 per month "Deutschland ticket", introduced in 2023 to alleviate the pressure of inflation and promote the use of public transportation, the "KlimaTicket" in Austria, free train travel on selected routes in France, Spain, Luxembourg and Estonia could incentivise modal shift, especially if accompanied with investment in good connectivity and customer experience.