The lack of public attention and support for any kind of railway transportation in the European Union has created an innovation desert in this industry. Especially in the context of urban rail transportation, no new business models have been developed in a long time, although rail travel is well adapted to urban needs. Many major cities in Europe still employ trams, subways and overground light-rail. Especially subway systems are well equipped for urban transportation as they operate entirely separated from overground traffic at a high frequency and can transport many passengers without causing congestion or air pollution .
The recent developments around private cars such as the driving ban on diesel engines in various cities all over Europe is likely to have an impact on the urban rail transportation network. With less people being able to enter cities with their private cars they are forced to transfer to different means of transportation. This poses a challenge to regional, public transport providers to respond to the increasing demand as capacities were already at their limit in numerous places before the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is also to be considered an opportunity to increase the market share of rail transportation in the mobility modal split. The development of new business models could help master this challenge. The focus on urban rail transportation is also vital to solve the current conflict of an ever-growing need for a high-performance urban mobility system and the improvement of the air quality in European cities. It is up to national and international policy makers to develop the conditions required for this transformation as well as to enhance innovation processes in this industry .
However, there are various reasons why many citizens still prioritize moving in a private car over taking public transport. These will be elaborated on further in the consumer perspective section below.
Political Topics / Constraints
For decades, public transport was rudimentary developed as a means of transport for those who cannot afford a private car. Most cities in the western world were planned to be ideal for cars while all other modes of transportation had to make way . This has a number of far-reaching consequences for people as well as municipalities. In many countries, smaller cities and rural areas are only poorly connected to city centers via rail  . This has a direct influence on the cities: the better cities are connected to the national railway system, the more they grow as people move away from areas that lack a convenient and appropriate public transportation connection. Many experts are convinced that China's outstanding economic growth of the past decades has partly been driven by the extension of the Chinese (high-speed) railway network  . Therefore, the German Alliance for Rail Transportation calls for a mobility guarantee for smaller cities. They demand public transport to and from those regions between five and twelve a.m. in 15 minute intervals in metropolitan areas and 30 minute intervals in rural areas .
The decade-long prioritization of cars is now difficult to undo, but as public demand for greener transportation continues to grow, politicians, institutions and companies are starting to address these new needs. Ultimately, a serious focus on public rail transportation would slowly transform the architecture of western cities. The growing independence from private cars would free public spaces that are currently reserved for car parking which could consequently create more room for rail transportation or be transformed into green spaces  .
Urban rail transportation has become an integral part of many people’s lives: in 2019, German tramways and subways counted roughly 4.1 billion passengers. But despite the good fit of railway transportation for urban mobility, many Germans still refrain from taking public transportation if they also have the option to use a car .
For one thing, in many German cities, using public transport takes about twice as long as going by car, even in metropolitan areas with a well-developed public transportation network and when there are no strikes. Using public transportation becomes particularly stressful when passengers must change trains or means of transport to reach their destination as connections and schedules are often not aligned appropriately. For another, a significant share of Germans is not even remotely connected to a railway line. This share can be as high as 21% in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern as the Mobility Institute Berlin found out recently. Often, even newly-built housing areas do not have a railway connection . In order to increase the chances of commuters to opt for trains instead of private cars, this must change and gaps in the railway network - both urban and long-distance - are to be closed rapidly .
Moreover, rail transportation is one of the most expensive modes of transport, and prices continue to increase. Between 2010 and 2020, ticket prices for trains increased by as much as 16% while flights are becoming cheaper . Public rail transportation must be prioritized and subsidized by governments in order to offer cheaper tickets and create incentives for users to opt for this environmentally friendly mode of transport rather than their private car  .
Urban rail transportation is also characterized by a high degree of inflexibility which does not align well with consumers’ growing desire for individuality in all aspects of their daily lives  . Plus, the travelling experience has not been adapted to today’s digitized world. Even processes as simple as buying a ticket for the trajectory are often intransparent and un-intuitive.
In many Asian countries, rail transportation has long been the focus of national governments. The largest subway systems in the world are found in Peking and Shanghai and China is also the home of the largest railway network. There are multiple high-speed railway lines across Asia and trains are generally a popular mode of transportation due to convenient conditions for passenger trains, high reliability, and technical advancements that reduced the dependence on a private car . This is the reason why European regulators are recommended to take Asia as a best-case example for the expansion of both the urban or short-distance and long-distance railway systems.
 IEA (2019, January). The Future of Rail - Opportunities for energy and the environment; Technology report - January 2019. Retrieved from https://www.iea.org/reports/the-future-of-rail
 Brand, D. (2019, April). Luftreinhaltung und nachhaltige urbane Mobilität. VDV Jahresbericht 2018/2019, 68
 Götz, S. (2021, August 23). Mit dem Auto geht's fast immer schneller. Zeit Online. Retrieved from https://www.zeit.de/mobilitaet/2021-08/oeffentlicher-verkehr-auto-bahn-zeitersparnis-verkehrswende
 Heinrich Böll Foundation (2021, February). European Mobility Atlas - Facts and figures about transport and mobility in Europe. Retrieved from https://www.boell-bw.de/sites/default/files/importedFiles/2021/02/04/EUMobilityatlas2021_FINAL_WEB.pdf
 Allianz pro Schiene. Anbindung des öffentlichen Verkehrs - Das deutschlandweite Erreichbarkeitsranking. Retrieved from https://www.allianz-pro-schiene.de/themen/dossiers/erreichbarkeitsranking/
 Plattform Urbane Mobilität (2020). Neue Mobilität erfahrbar machen - Thesenpapier der Plattform Urbane Mobilität, 6
 Randelhoff, M. (2021, April 3). Wachstum des chinesischen Schnellfahrstreckennetzes. Zukunft Mobilität. Retrieved from https://www.zukunft-mobilitaet.net/171978/schienenverkehr/hochgeschwindigkeitszug/wachstum-entwicklung-hochgeschwindigkeitsverkehr-schnellfahrstrecken-china/
 BMW (2020, August 18). Urban Mobility: Discover 5 Trends of the Future. Retrieved from https://www.bmw.com/en/innovation/5-trends-of-urban-mobility.html
 Mobility Institute Berlin (2021). Reisezeitindex. Retrieved from https://mobilityinstitute.com/impulse/reisezeitindex
 Allianz pro Schiene. Nahverkehr auf der Schiene. Retrieved from https://www.allianz-pro-schiene.de/themen/personenverkehr/nahverkehr/
 Allianz pro Schiene. Der Wettbewerb der Verkehrsträger ist nicht gerecht. Retrieved from https://www.allianz-pro-schiene.de/themen/personenverkehr/wettbewerbsbedingungen/
 ADAC (2017). Die Evolution der Mobilität. zukunkftsInstitut
 Beil, P. When it Comes to Transportation, Gen Z Wants Options https://www.publicissapient.com/insights/when-it-comes-to-transportation-gen-z-wants-options
 Bartels, J. (2016). Der Zug ruft. Retrieved from https://www.schienenverkehr-info.de/der-zug-ruft