The 2020 European Railway Award was presented tonight to Geert Pauwels, for successfully developing a strategy making rail freight a profitable business, thereby boosting the attractiveness of rail freight and encouraging a modal shift from road to rail. The Award was handed over to Mr Pauwels by Libor Lochman, CER Executive Director, and Philippe Citroën, UNIFE Director General, during a special ceremony at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels.

The evening started off with a round-table discussion on the theme of ‘Working with rail for greener European mobility’ with the participation of top EU transport policymakers and rail sector stakeholders. European Commission Director-General for Mobility and Transport, Henrik Hololei, highlighted: “Rail must and – I am sure – will play a big role in delivering the European Green Deal. In particular, it must take a large part of the 75% of land freight which currently goes by road. This means that the existing barriers must be overcome, the Single European Rail Area finally delivered and the share of rail freight increased.

Andrey Novakov, Member of the European Parliament, and Chair of Rail Forum Europe underlined: “Rail is one of the most powerful instrument to foster economic development, social cohesion and connectivity. We need to ensure it can decisively contribute to the revolutions shaping tomorrow’s mobility: multimodality, digitalisation and sustainability.

UNIFE Chair and CEO of Siemens Mobility, Sabrina Soussan commented: "No means of transportation is as sustainable as rail, and increasing capacity and reliability is a key area for increasing its attractiveness and competitiveness. What’s important now, is that we all work together to get innovative technologies out there.

CER Acting Chair and CEO of ÖBB Andreas Matthä congratulated the laureate and took the opportunity to emphasise Geert Pauwels’ “efforts to strengthen rail freight transportation in Belgium and Europe over the last years. Geert is one of the founding members and leading supporters of the Rail Freight Forward (RFF) initiative, with the goal to achieve a modal split of 30% of rail freight transportation by 2030 across Europe”.

When accepting the European Railway Award, Geert Pauwels commented: “I am extremely proud. This is recognition for the hard work of all our colleagues, for the trust of our shareholder, and for the belief of our customers in what we do.” He added: “We have ten years to drastically shift to sustainable transport and keep our climate targets achievable. Let’s reinvent rail and again challenge the status quo of how we do transport. We need everyone present here to unite behind the single purpose of Modal Shift: rail companies, infrastructure managers, policymakers, everyone. By 2030, I hope to see that rail has become the backbone of the European transport system.

As CEO of LINEAS, Geert Pauwels succeeded in restructuring the Belgian indebted freight incumbent into a modern, successful company, backed up by private investments. Furthermore, he has promoted the development of innovative services with a flexible transport offer, thereby boosting the attractiveness of rail freight and encouraging a modal shift from road to rail.

The award was accompanied by a donation of €10.000 to the charity of the laureate’s choice. Geert Pauwels decided to give his prize money to Natuurpunt – the largest Belgian nature conservation organisation.

First organised in 2007, the European Railway Award celebrates and recognises the political and technical contributions of accomplished individuals to the rail sector. The ceremony for the 2020 Award was followed by the joint CER-UNIFE Annual Reception and attracted more than 500 guests from all over Europe, including politicians and transport stakeholders.