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The project is co-financed by the Governments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from International Visegrad Fund. The mission of the fund is to advance ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe.

Railway Heritage for Sustainable Tourism Development – Rail4V4+V aims to highlight the tourist potential of the railway, particularly through its history and heritage, recalling the role that rail has played in creating the Central European collective identity. In line with the aim of the European Year of Rail and strategic priorities of the Visegrad Group in 2021, the main goal of the proposed project is to raise awareness about the role of railways for V4 sustainable tourism development, through unique branding and presentation of railway heritage, in situ and on a digital platform.

CHALLENGES
Rail is ecological, comfortable and safe means of transport, which will play a key role in the EU’s efforts to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, within the framework of new growth strategy – European Green Deal. In line with that, the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on designating 2021 as the European Year of Rail. One of the objectives of the European Year will be to create public awareness of the potential role of rail for European sustainable tourism. The tourism economy is heavily affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. According to the World Tourism Organisation, the crisis has led to a decline in international tourism over 70% in 2020, back to levels of 30 years ago. Policy Brief: COVID-19 and Transforming Tourism underline that rebuilding tourism should be based on innovation, digitalization, sustainability, and partnerships. Tourism innovation should be focused on creating a new sustainable approach that link users with creative industries, empower communities and promote new digital products and experiences.  Considering the situation in the fields of heritage and tourism, the main idea of the proposed project is to explore the layered context and respond to the current challenges facing heritage tourism, offering effective responses through the development of innovative sustainable solutions. The project aims to highlight the tourist potential of the railway, particularly through its history and heritage, recalling the role that rail has played in creating the Central European collective identity.


APPROACH
In line with the aim of the European Year of Rail to encourage and support the efforts of the Union in promoting rail from different points of view, the main goal of the project is to raise awareness about the railway heritage value and importance in the diversification of tourism offer in V4 + Vojvodina region. The project aims to identify and promote railway heritage for sustainable tourism development through:
- Establishing the cooperation network among heritage and tourism-related stakeholders in our regions;
- Empowering creativity and digital skills as key players in the innovation of cultural heritage tourism;
- Connecting the selected railway sites into the joint route, both real and virtual, and promoting among the local and foreign target markets.

The project will be launched with networking and cooperation activities, which are essential to bringing together owners and managers of railway heritage sites, as well to involve related stakeholder who deals with heritage preservation and tourism development.

We will combine different railway heritage types (museums, collections, infrastructure, buildings, etc.) in a joint route, create a unified visual identity of the railway heritage tourism products and mark the objects involved in the project with informative signs, design digital tourism products, such as a virtual interactive route, and produce digital handbook/catalogue.

INNOVATION
The novelty of the Project pertains to:
1. The introduction of novel perspectives in the research and presentation of common values and identity, through the synthesis of historical, engineering, tourism, sociological and managerial studies The application of interdisciplinary methodology will contribute to the understanding of the multifaceted regional significance that the railway had in the middle of the 19th century, when it was created, and how its role was transformed during the communist period, until today.
2. The development of new digital interactive solutions using advanced technologies, created on quality content and balance based on tourists’ needs and desires. The combination of innovative methodologies, processes, methods and devices to enhance the understanding of railway heritage by digitization will bring new knowledge, collaboration across disciplines, efficiency in developing and use of digital models, an increase of market share, and social benefits. The virtual platform will not only provide remote access to railway heritage sites but also interactivity on a user-site basis.
3. The way of developing participatory policy and networking the needs of different target groups Networking activities will be supported by competence building initiatives – regional online seminar, thematic workshops, design competition, in situ programs – to provide and merge specific knowledge with the expectations and demands of visitors. The project will, directly and indirectly, benefit participants and stakeholders.

REGIONAL RELEVANCE
The railway has played a crucial role in the historical development of the V4 region. Its construction in the former Habsburg monarchy began in the 1820s, and by the end of the century, it had significantly contributed to the development of mining and agricultural areas, as well as the transport of goods. By the beginning of the 20th century, the railway network of the Monarchy reached a total length of over 40,000 kilometres and became one of the most developed networks in Europe. The territory of today’s Vojvodina, once a peripheral swampy area of southern Hungary, was integrated into the bloodstream of
the Monarchy thanks to the railway. The development of new means of transport by the end of the 20th century made the railway lose its primacy. Today, however, the EU is putting the railway in focus again, recognizing its potential in the areas of sustainability, innovation, safety and accessibility.

The regional relevance of our proposal is in the following:
- capacity building to strengthen the role of the railway in preserving Central European collective identity, especially through its heritage, both tangible and intangible
- highlighting the regional, cross-border dimension of rail, that brings citizens closer together, allows them to explore the region in all its diversity, fosters socio-economic and territorial cohesion
- contribution to raising awareness of the role of railways for V4 sustainable tourism, through unique branding and presentation of railway heritage, in situ and on a digital platform, in line with strategic priorities of the Visegrad Group in 2021

CONSORTIUM

SERBIA
Cultural studies platform CULTstore

HUNGARY
Aviscon Consulting and Services Ltd.

CZECH REPUBLIC
Research Centre for Industrial Heritage FA CTU Prague

SLOVAKIA
Slovak University of Technology Faculty of Architecture and Design

POLAND
Foundation for the Protection of Silesian Industrial Heritage

IMPLEMENTATION 01/06/2021 - 01/12/2022
Novi Sad, Serbia
Budapest, Hungary
Prague, Czech Republic
Bratislava, Slovakia
Wroclaw, Poland

RESPONSIBLE RESEARCHES FOR THE SLOVAK SIDE:
Assoc. prof. Ing. Eva Kráľová, CSc., eva.kralova@stuba.sk (FAD STU)
Ing. arch. Vladimír Hain, PhD., vladimir.hain@stuba.sk (FAD STU)