On Thursday 18 November 2021 the Wunderline Community+ Meeting took place, the (annual) event for all those interested in railways, mobility chain (door to door connection), (cross-border) tourism as well as education and the labour market. The meeting’s theme was “Connecting regions, connecting Europe”. Several guest speakers discussed cross-border railway connections, the European Year of Rail, innovations and of course the Wunderline. Close to one hundred people from inter alia Groningen, Bremen, Hannover, Berlin, Brussels as well as Bordeaux followed the meeting via a live stream.
This years’ event of the Wunderline Community was marked by a European dimension, visualised by the added plus sign. The central focus of the event was the connection between Europa and its regions as well as the role the Wunderline plays in this matter. Important topics were the European Year of Rail, innovations and recent European developments. As well as – obviously – an update of the state of affairs regarding the Wunderline.
Welcoming words by several officials
After the opening, welcoming words were spoken by Berend Lindner (State Secretary of Lower Saxony), Fleur Gräper-van Koolwijk (Executive Member of the Province of Groningen) and Ronny Meyer (State Legislator of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen). Linder emphasised in particular the excellent collaboration of all partners involved, while Gräper underlined the instrumental role the EU plays as regards to the realisation of the Wunderline. Meyer pointed out that the Wunderline is a major factor in car-free mobility developments and thus in contributing to the forthcoming energy transition (Green Deal).
European Year of Rail
During the European Year of Rail segment Herald Ruijters, the head of the European Commission (DG MOVE), addressed (future) developments. For instance, he mentioned a new European proposition in 2022, which aims to reduce CO2 emission and ultimately achieve zero emission mobility. Ruijters specifically stressed the Wunderline’s possible contribution to this plan, especially if this project should increase its level of ambitions both in number as well as in dimension. He therefor advocated in particular the electrification of the railway on the Dutch side of the border, as hydrogen – in his words – “does not seem to be a long term solution.” Wim van de Camp (the Dutch Ambassador of the Year of Rail) also attended the meeting in order to exchange views regarding the European developments in this field. Criticising the involved national financial contributions, he believes that the EU should more strongly support railway transportation.
Innovations and Connecting regions
During the second segment Janek Pfeifer (Deutsche Bahn) and Pieter Lautenbach (ProRail) discussed innovations on both sides of the border, including the application of drones and measures regarding soft soil conditions. During the final segment a link was made between Europa and its regions. Online guests included Gitta Connemann (Member of the Bundestag), Cora-Yfke Sikkema (Mayor of the Municipality of Oldambt) and Torsten Slink (Managing Director IHK Ostfriesland-Papenburg), which all emphasised the significance of the Wunderline for the municipalities and its many stakeholders.
Closing and a look at the future
Tjeerd Postma (Wunderline Project Manager) and Götz-Friedrich Schau (Section Head of the Lower Saxony Ministry of Transport) closed the meeting, jointly concluding that the Wunderline was on the right track as regards to matters such as planning, mobility chain and collaboration within the Dutch-German Wunderline team.
In future days the Wunderline – being a part of the European railway network – should focus on increasing its ambitions as well as on dealing with rural electrification challenges as mentioned by Ruijters.