10 March 2022
2022 has been declared the European Year of Youth. To strengthen this initiative of the European Commission, Marleen van de Kerkhof and Oscar Vermeij have been appointed rail ambassadors. They believe that young people play an important role in the future of the railways and therefore feel it is essential to devote attention to this topic.
The European Year of Youth sheds light on the importance of Europe’s youth in building a better future – greener, more inclusive and digital. In search of young people’s recommendations, this will be a year of meeting, learning and sharing each other’s vision.
The driving force of young people behind sustainability and innovation is of great importance to the rail sector. Both ambassadors are therefore keen to bring the sustainable nature of rail travel and the numerous innovations in the rail sector to the attention of young people. The aim is to inspire young people to opt for the train more often and to show them that the rail sector is an attractive employer.
Sustainability and innovation are the most important spearheads for Marleen van de Kerkhof, who works as International Affairs Manager at technology company Dual Inventive. She sees the increase of the average age of the people working in the railway sector, and with that the growing importance of digitalisation and attracting young talent. She also sees the European rail network as a patchwork quilt, whereas we need to move towards a Single European Railway Area. This will require modernisation, digitalisation and cooperation, which is exactly what young people are interested in.
“The train is part of the solution for a more sustainable world for us and future generations. In fact, it offers the solution to decarbonise transport. Many young people demonstrated this in the Climate Train that travelled from Amsterdam to the climate conference in Glasgow last year. They made it clear that the share of the train in the transport mix must increase in the fight against climate change.”
Marleen van de Kerkhof
Oscar Vermeij, who works at Rail Innovators Group, also aims for more attention, but specifically for the rail freight sector.
“Few people get to know that part of the sector directly, especially outside the Rotterdam area. It is therefore important to involve schools in our sector, offer traineeships and, where possible, keep young people on board. Rail freight transport is dynamic and flexible, something that suits young people well. In addition, the sector still has great growth potential and an attractive labour market with plenty of opportunities.”