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During the European Year of Rail, the European Commission aims to establish a future-proof railway sector in various ways, contributing to a more sustainable transport sector and a climate-neutral economy. Putting rail at the center of the economic recovery of the European Union, the institutions hope to swiftly decarbonize the transport sector. These developments provide additional momentum for the rail transport sector and cross-border railway connections to further develop and increase its market share.  

In this context, the Wunderline project partners will perform various infrastructural works to upgrade the existing railway connection. The first phase (to be finished in 2024) focuses on a faster stopping train in the Netherlands. The goal of the second phase (due in 2030) is an additional fast train in the Netherlands to Leer every two hours, as well as a stopping train every hour. The third phase will ensure a direct connection (no transfer in Leer) via an additional fast train in the Netherlands and Germany every two hours. These works will result in a reduction of travel times between Groningen and Bremen (and vice versa) by 32 minutes in 2030, cutting back the total travel times between the two urban nodes to just over two hours. To facilitate these works, Wunderline is preparing a CEF-T project application, seeking financing for the further development of this flagship project.

With the support of the EU, Wunderline can become a frontrunner in the transition towards a climate-neutral economy. In this context, we have developed a position paper, in which we state that in order to meet evolving environmental and societal challenges, the European Year of Rail should be used as an opportunity by EU policymakers to fully unlock the potential of the Wunderline cross-border railway connection.

Fleur Gräper-Van Koolwijk, regional minister of the Province of Groningen: “The Wunderline is the connecting link between two countries, two regions and for all people living in between. The Wunderline facilitates cross-border commuting and contributes to the accessibility and liveability of the northern border region. This cross-border connection therefore perfectly matches the European objectives and those of our province to make the transport sector more sustainable and to initiate a modal shift.”

Since rail transport is only responsible for 0.4% of the EU GHG emissions in the transport sector, while it accommodates 8% of all European travellers, it is the most effective way to decarbonise the transport system and achieve zero-emission transport in the long run. According to a study by Prognos (2021), a shift from air travel to rail transport between the cities of Bremen and Amsterdam, both located on the North Sea-Baltic TEN-T Corridor, would result in a 85% CO2 emission reduction per day (from 34,800 to 5,200 tons of CO2, based on 470 passengers per day). Upon completion of the infrastructural works, the travel time between Bremen and Groningen will also be reduced to 2 hours and 11 minutes, similar to taking a car or bus.

However, the benefits of cross-border connections reach far beyond shorter travel times. Wunderline accommodates cross-border commuting and contributes to the accessibility and liveability of the northern border region via integrated chain mobility, the door to door connection. Moreover, Wunderline connects three major economic hubs: Bremen, Oldenburg and Groningen. A faster and more comfortable railway connection will create opportunities for exchanging scientific research between universities, boosting tourism in the border regions and realising a labour market without border barriers.

In order to fully exploit the potential of cross-border connections, the Wunderline project partners call upon EU policymakers to create a stimulating regulatory framework that enables high-quality rail passenger services. Passengers are not travellers from station to station, but from door to door, and therefore would benefit from integrated ticketing services that transcend national boundaries.

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