language programme

Abatement of language barriers

The Language Programme was initiated by RNE in December 2017. During 2018 the programme has defined distinct situations to focus on:

  • IM-IM communication at a national level
  • IM-RU operational communication
  • IM-IM communication at a regional level
  • RU-RU operational communication

Together with Union Internationale des Chemins de fer (UIC), European Rail Freight Association (ERFA) and the European Union Agency for Railways (the Agency), RailNetEurope is addressing these situations separately. From the start, it was proposed that IM-IM communication at a national level and IM-RU operational communication will be the focus of the beginning of the programme. The two focus areas are being addressed in parallel.

The goals of the Language Programme are:

IM-IM communication at a national level

For IM-IM communication at a national level, the current focus is on the implementation of English-speaking dispatchers within the national traffic control centres. It has been agreed that at least one English-speaking dispatcher will be available in each shift at the national traffic control centres by January 2020. This person will be in contact with other national traffic control centres to inform each other about irregularities and other information important for daily business.

According to a recent survey, most IMs have started the English-training and more than 50% of the IMs already have dispatchers able to communicate in English. This is a very positive result. Progress is being monitored every six months and the results are being reported at the Traffic Management high level group meetings.

IM-RU communication

Today, when Railway Undertakings (RUs) are operating over borders, they must relate to regulations in Directive 2007/59/EC. The regulation makes it mandatory for train drivers operating across borders to be fluent in the language of the foreign country at level B1 (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages standards). This leads to high costs and is time consuming for the Railway Undertakings. Currently, there is also a general lack of train drivers in Europe. To be able to recruit more drivers and to be able to easier cross borders, it is of great importance to find a solution where the railway industry can compete with other types of transports in Europe.

Set-up of the IM-RU communication situation in the Language Programme

From August 2018, there are three sub-groups within the programme where more technical solutions are being discussed. The sub-groups are working on following areas:

  • Predefined Messages
  • Translation Tool
  • Ergonomics

The sub-groups address the three topics differently and on a more detailed level than the Language Programme working group. At Language Programme meetings, results, potential problems and risks are addressed to the whole group including RNE, IMs, UIC, DB Systel, the Agency and ERFA. The programme governance for IM-RU operational communication is illustrated below.


The Language Programme will in the next few years focus on Predefined messages and Translation tool. The group believes these two solutions shall be addressed separately and have different goals and timelines. It is expected the Predefined messages will be available before a Translation tool. Therefore, it is proposed to start with pilots testing the Predefined messages. Approximately, one year later a Translation tool will be tested in pilots. The expected timeline for the IM-RU operational communication is displayed below.

Focus later in the programme

The IM-IM communication at a regional level and RU-RU operational communication will be addressed later in the programme.