The CEI-led project CONNECT2CE “Improved rail connections and smart mobility in Central Europe” concluded in a virtual conference held on 28 May. CEI Secretary General, Mr. Roberto Antonione – while thanking the 12 project partners from Central Europe - stressed that mobility, in particular at cross-border level, contributed to the social and economic integration of the CEI Member States and that the innovative solutions successfully tested within CONNECT2CE represented an important asset for Central Europe. Luca Ferrarese, Head of the Interreg Central Europe Secretariat highlighted the significance of the project and its innovative and useful results and Franc Žepić, Coordinator of Priority Area 1b of the European Strategy for the Danube Region underlined the importance of its outcomes for the Danube region in terms of cross-border connections, integrated ticketing, and multimodal transport solutions. These results would be a valuable input also for drawing up the next Action Plan of the European Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP), thanks to improved connections among peripheral and cross-border areas, stated Garcia Xavier, Coordinator of the EUSALP Action Group 4.
Based on the needs assessment on public transport systems on the project sites, eight pilot actions were conducted in three key areas. From analysing new potential public transport services with a specific focus on time-table harmonisation and cross-border services improvement to integrating timetable and tariffs options, as well as ICT tools for info-mobility, the project has encompassed a wide range of initiatives through a strategic approach.
The results of the piloting activities have been instrumental in preparing the ground for future regional strategies in the development of the transport sector, thus targeting long-term sustainability. Moreover, these activities allowed partners to reduce the environmental impact and to contribute to countering the depopulation of the territory.
Based on these achievements, the final conference included a round table discussion among experts in road and rail transport, which witnessed and exchanged views on how the COVID-19 had effected sustainable public transport and the importance of cooperation within EU projects for enhancing cross-border cooperation. There was a common understanding that given the lock-down and temporary suspension of public transport connections, in particular cross-border services, passengers would likely have to be reassured towards a safe-use of public transportation even after the emergency. Overall, the outcomes scored through the CONNECT2CE activities feed into the European integration process, which lies at the heart of the CEI’s institutional mission.
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