7th December 2017 was supposed to be a litmus test for how far the voluntary initiatives of the rail sector, backed by the commitments of EU Transport Ministers, had contributed to boosting rail freight’s competitiveness and attracting new and more customers to Europe’s most sustainable mode of transport. Instead the Rastatt disaster, which saw 7 weeks of unplanned line closure on Europe’s most important transport corridor, was perceived as a clear sign of the weakness of the rail system, far overshadowing the efforts made elsewhere. The EU Commission, for a long time the strongest supporter of modal shift to rail, set the tone of the conference, with Commissioner Violeta Bulc strongly warning that while rail accounts for 73% of EU transport funding, it accounts for only just under 12% of modal share. Rail’s failure to deliver cannot continue to be supported with public funding. While the support of national governments is needed now more than ever if rail is to get back on track, the lack of any official Ministerial presence at the conference signalled the steep challenges that faced by rail freight.