European rail public-private partnership Shift2Rail has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Permanent Secretariat of the Transport Community for promoting international cooperation in research and innovation (R&I) for the rail industry.

Formed in October 2017, the Transport Community comprises the European Union, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.

The MoU is aimed at promoting cooperation on rail R&I between the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking and the Permanent Secretariat of the Transport Community.

This is expected to contribute to the modernisation of the rail sector in the Western Balkan region by deploying solutions and new technologies.

Shift2Rail executive director Carlo Borghini said: “This MoU is very important for us because digitalisation and the fostering of rail interoperability are crucial aspects of railway system transformation.

“Shift2Rail can contribute to this process by creating opportunities for testing demonstrations and delivering quick wins resulting from Shift2Rail Research & Innovation.”

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Under the agreement framework, the South-East European Parties will develop and implement a regional rail strategy in the Western Balkans.

The Permanent Secretariat of the Transport Community set up a Rail Action Plan in this regard.

Set to begin during the ongoing programming period under Horizon 2020, the cooperation will continue in the new period that is expected to start in the second half of next year, as part of Horizon Europe.

Permanent Secretariat of the Transport Community director Matej Zakonjsek said: “In an effort to make travelling and transporting goods by rail attractive for citizens and companies in the Western Balkans, Transport Community is proud to cooperate with Shift 2 Rail.

“This MoU is a testament of our joint dedication to bringing innovation and digital solutions to Western Balkans, shift more cargo from roads to rail and, in doing so, make the region’s transport system more competitive and better connected with the EU.”