Shift2Rail’s Governing Board has renewed Mr Carlo Borghini’s mandate till May 2026, recognizing his support during the past 5 years and placing their trust in his leadership to bring forward rail research and innovation in an unprecedented manner, under the forthcoming Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking.
With this new mandate, Mr Borghini will support the European Commission and Industry Members in setting up and implementing an ambitious research and innovation programme, to be designed in line with the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, and delivered by the System and Innovation Pillars, bringing the most advanced technological and operational solutions to rail. Steered by an integrated system approach, implemented with a multi-annual programme enabled by the JU’s Members, the new Programme will start delivering major flagship solutions as from 2025-26 to be demonstrated at large scale in the following years, and to bridge the future activities in the post-2028 era.
To reflect on the Joint Undertaking’s beginnings, how far we have come, and what’s on the horizon, Mr Henrik Hololei, Director-General for Mobility and Transport got talking to our Executive Director in a special interview.
Henrik Hololei: As an Executive Director of Shift2Rail from 2016 what would you consider your greatest challenge over the last five years and what is the accomplishment that makes you most proud?
Carlo Borghini: This so far five-year journey has been characterized by a variety of challenges, and it’s part of what makes this job so fascinating. I was not known by the sector and I had a distant knowledge of the stakeholders: but thanks to the Members, they brought me on board and we started a journey that will bring a major impact on the way people will make use of rail. I am very proud of leading a team of professionals that, starting from zero, has been able to create an impactful programme, involving almost 500 different entities working together to deliver new services and business models to the rail clients, passengers and logistic value chain. One of the key moments was certainly InnoTrans 2018, where more than 300+ participants, together with the then Commissioner and Ministers, came to the Shift2Rail stand to see the results of the initial work performed. Similarly, one year later in Japan at the World Congress on Rail Research, Shift2Rail and its members had the opportunity to show the progress made across our innovation programmes to bring the solutions of tomorrow one step closer to market deployment. And now, to see that we are shaping, with the Commission and the sector, Europe’s Rail is a major confirmation of the work performed till now, together!
Henrik Hololei: What does it mean for you to lead S2R and be a key person to drive forward European rail innovation?
Carlo Borghini: Shift2Rail is the result of the willingness of the rail stakeholders, with a major commitment from the rail manufacturing industry, to work together to bring rail into the future, leveraging its strengths. I have always considered myself to be at the service of the Commission and the sector in this endeavour, with a strong commitment to deliver the Union’s policy objectives and the long-term return on investment of the sector; but also, to ensure that in the end, people working in rail and using it are at the centre of this rail transformation. Leading Shift2Rail and the future Europe’s Rail to me means organizing the delivery of short-term results according to long-term priorities and strategies. I strongly believe in the sector leading rail transformation, and to be able to count on rail for a sustainable and smart mobility. Concretely, I see leading Europe’s Rail as an opportunity to consolidate what we have achieved together so far; change speed and ambition, with a system approach requiring a strong, determined and long-term committed European membership.
Henrik Hololei: What would be the three main deliverables you want to achieve through the new Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking in the next years?
Carlo Borghini: As I mentioned, the first change is about speed: no time for complaisance – only to deliver beyond expectations. Rail has an intrinsic huge potential to impact sustainable mobility, but for this we need to create the services demanded by passengers and logistics, to make use of it; otherwise, there is no sustainable business case, nor future. The three key deliverables we want to achieve together: a digital rail freight system, built around automation, allowing trains to be capable of operating in the European network without any type of barriers; technological and operational solutions for an integrated high speed network connecting European capitals and centre of interests; and a new sustainable operational concept for low density lines and commuters. Europe’s Rail Research and Innovation can deliver these ambitions: the change will only come when the solutions are embedded in the real network and investment decisions are taken at local, regional and national levels. In this respect, the interaction with the Commission, ERA and Member States will be essential to accelerate migration plans and focus any deployment funding on forward looking solutions.