The construction of railways throughout Europe has brought huge changes in the whole economic and social activity and continues to play an important role in the development of the continent to this day. The history of the railway transport began in Great Britain and then spread to continental Europe and each nation approached railways differently.

Each European country has a different history regarding the railways, but the development of the modern railway system occurred due to the following factors: technological progress and the need to transport military troops and equipment. The first locomotives used steam engines. Steam engines were not initially suitable for the railway transport because they provided an oscillating linear motion that had to be transformed into a rotary motion of the wheel.

The first problem was solved by James Watt by inventing an engine that incorporated his researches on the use of high pressure steam on pistons and created the first steam locomotive in 1784. By developping the metal processing and metallurgy in 1783, the metal used in the construction of the first trains became more resistant due to the removal of impurities.

The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars also contributed to the development of the railway network in Europe. The loss of horses during these wars necessitated an alternative form of transport. Thus, by 1820, a properly functioning locomotive has been designed and the infrastructure construction process had been developed and widespread enough to make possible the existance of cheap and quality railroad tracks and hence the history of the railway transport in Europe was different depending on the country.

Did you know that?

In 1991, the European Economic Community (EEC) adopted the first railway directive on the development of Community’s railways, proposing the opening of markets, networks and services for passengers and freight. It was followed by the Directive 95/18/EEC on the licensing of railway undertakings, whereby the European Union (EU) introduced a set of new legal requirements for the licensing of railway undertakings. It meant that a license granted in a Member State was valid in what would become the Single European Railway Area (SERA).
These were the basis for the beginning of the works for the First Railway Package started in 1998 and completed in 2001, and the package consisted of Directives 2001/12/CE, 2001/13/CE and 2001/14/CE.

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