Friday 14 October 2022

Success at the International Railway Forum & Conference (IRFC) 2022

Share this article

The seventh International Railway Forum & Conference was held from 5 to 7 October 2022, in the Clarion Congress Hotel Prague with first-time support from the Minister for European Affairs, Mikuláš Bek, PhD, which was granted within the framework of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Other patrons of IRFC 2022 included major European organisations such as ERA (the European Union Agency for Railways), UNIFE (the European Rail Supply Industry Association), CER (the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies), UIC (International Union of Railways), Europe’s Rail JU, and the Czech Ministry of Transport. The conference also worked with 16 partners, especially from national and international organisations in the railway industry, transport, and logistics. Every year the Europe-wide, OLTIS Group-organised event is highly successful especially thanks to the conference’s 15 main sponsors.

217 participants from 18 countries took part in this year’s conference, including 55 speakers, moderators and representatives from important railway companies and organisations. Alongside the main event, the usual expert exhibition also took place with 16 exhibitors, including railway undertakings, IT companies, international organisations and media outlets. At the heart of the IRFC 2022 were of course the Gala Dinner on the first evening and this year’s Czech themed dinner.

The IRFC 2022 slogan entitled “Let’s build a new generation of railways together” was the theme carried throughout the three days at each session.

Martin Kupka, Minister of Transport of the Czech Republic, opened the conference highlighting how the Czech presidency is prioritising railway transport during its term. After all, railway transport forms the backbone of national transport systems and is an environmentally friendly and safe mode of transport. Following the European Green Deal, the transport sector as a whole must significantly reduce emissions, with the railway included in this. Moreover, environmentally friendly modes of transport need to be promoted to achieve these goals. We need a robust network that has sufficient capacity, is safe and secure, and also energy efficient, with as few bottlenecks as possible. The Czech rail sector’s main challenges are to increase the capacity of rail infrastructure, focusing on constructing high-speed lines and finalising the revision of the TEN-T regulation, to ensure sustainable connectivity throughout the European Union. They are also proposing to extend EU transport corridors to the Ukrainian and Moldovan territories. Other speakers in the first session, both from the European Commission and organisations from the sector, also stated the importance of digitalisation and automation, preparing the rail sector for continued negotiation regarding several important legislative proposals for the Fit for 55 Package, which will contribute to the transport sector being decarbonised.

The moderator of the second session, ERA Executive Director Josef Doppelbauer, summed up each of the speaker’s and panellist’s presentations on the need for standardisation and interoperability in a concise statement, saying that without standardisation, interoperability and implementing ERTMS with the contribution of digital automatic coupling, it will be impossible to create a resilient, capable and, above all, safe European railway. It will be a long and difficult journey, full of compromises, but the sooner we start on it, the sooner we can benefit from the results of further research projects.

The second day of the conference picked up right where the first day left off. The main summary message of the third session’s moderator, Carlo Borghini, Executive Director of the Rail Partnership, was that research and innovation under the Europe’s Rail JU partnership, cooperation between Member States, and utilising synergies, are essential for the rail sector’s further development. He also recalled that the railway is not on its own, it must therefore be involved in intelligent transport systems, and take advantage of the opportunities to work with EUSPA and other institutions in order to keep developing.

The fourth and fifth sessions were very closely linked, with the talk on high-speed transport moderated by Ondřej Kovařík MEP and the fifth session on TEN-T by Wim van de Camp, Special Adviser to the Commissioner for Transport. The focus was on the ambition as well as necessity of connecting the most important business centres and capitals of all EU countries as soon as possible through a high-speed rail network. This will not only reduce the carbon footprint and increase the capacity of the conventional rail network, but also enable any Member State or candidate country to be assisted more effectively in a crisis. The assistance given to Ukrainian Railways, for example, whose representatives were able to clearly and precisely define their needs, makes this need abundantly clear. The speakers in both sessions also made it clear that physical and cyber security must be developed and that critical transport infrastructure in the EU should also be built on the principle of dual use for military and civilian mobility.

On the last day of the conference, a technical visit to the most modern regional railway in the Czech Republic, Švestková dráha (the Plum Railway line), took place. During this visit participants learnt about cutting edge trends in rail signalling technology, track monitoring using drones, and the development of a self-driving train. The visitors’ feedback showed that AŽD Praha, the line’s owner and operator, is seen to be doing its job to the highest possible standard.

Overall, the conference achieved all of its goals and was an open forum for discussion across every area of the railway system.

2 Votes

Average rating: 3 / 5