Information published on 7 July 2021 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr eNews.

The webinar on “Challenges for Rail Integration in Latin America”, organised by UIC and ALAF in collaboration, was held on 1 July 2021.

  • Latin America
  • Level Crossings
  • Reporting
  • TopRail (Rail Tourism)

This webinar took a balanced look at issues and solutions adapted to the Latin-American railway community, the challenges railways face when integrating the transport of passengers and goods, the fundamentals of rail, such as safety and operational management, and the potential for developing tourist services.

Mr Marc Guigon, Director of the Passenger Department and Coordinator of the Latin American Region at UIC, welcomed the participants and underlined the UIC’s fundamental values.

Mr José Nicanor Villafañe, Secretary General of the Latin American Railway Association (ALAF), welcomed the opportunity to share experiences on railway integration in Latin America and its development.

The first panel focused on the standards and key challenges of regional integration.
The implementation of standards is the key to railway integration
Mercedes Gutierrez, Senior Advisor to the Department of Railway Infrastructure, UIC

The presentation showcased the core values of UIC, a non-profit organisation whose International Railway Solutions (IRS, previously UIC Leaflets) have been the worldwide standard for railways since 1928. The association’s four main activities are an online platform for dialogue between members, IRS standards, training and conferences, and working groups. The Railway System Forum manages 78 ongoing projects.

Level crossings are key to operational safety
Isabelle Fonverne, Senior Advisor to the Safety Department, UIC

With an estimated 500,000 level crossings worldwide, mostly located in highly populated urban areas, the need to ensure their safety has only increased. The Global Level Crossing Network enforces the motto “engaging, enabling, evaluation, engineering, enforcement, education”, and further cooperates with the Latin American region, with the publication of a guide expected for 2022. On 30 June 2021, the ILCAD conference was launched online for the first time in three languages: English, Spanish and French. The next ILCAD edition is scheduled for 9 June 2022.

Keys to rail integration in Latin America” / “Operational safety in the transport of cargo and passengers
Diego Disiervi, Transportation Safety Board (JST), Argentina

Operational safety has been deemed a cause of public interest in Argentina. The JST’s mission is to determine the causes of accidents, for all transportation types, in order to improve prevention efforts and operational safety. The National Direction of Accident Investigation (DNSIF) focuses on multimodal safety, with a wide area of action: formulating operational safety recommendations, gathering specialists, conducting field surveys, creating training programmes, and disseminating standards.

JST: “Un estado presente, un estado que te cuida” (A State there for you, a State that looks after you)

The second panel involved railway operation.

Integrated railway operation between countries
Victorino Pérez Fernandez, Manager of the International Relations Area, Renfe Operadora, Spain

The presentation highlighted the many challenges railways must overcome to operate smoothly across Europe. Many obstacles get in the way of interoperability in Europe: different voltages, signalling systems and track widths, and traffic on the right or left.

The presentation also highlighted the renewed interest in night trains which provide a comfortable and practical experience, although come with their own share of operational challenges (questionable day use, need for upgraded cars, time-consuming for long distances, etc.).

Mexico-USA-Canada Cross-Border Freight Railroad
Iker de Luisas Plazas, General Director, Mexican Association of Railways, AMF, Mexico

The presentation focused on the development of rail in Mexico. Between 1997 and 2020, US$12.5 million had been invested in railways, with 13 ports served thanks to intermodal services for external trade. The advantages of the intermodal double stowage service were also explained. More interconnection was expected to develop the Canada – USA – Mexico trade axis.

Passenger railway operation: a new milestone towards integration
Joubert Flores, President of the Associação Nacional dos Transportadores de Passageiros sobre Trilhos (ANPTrilhos), Brazil

Brazil counts 1.45 million passengers. The Brazilian government is therefore seeking to create a national policy for regional train development based on its tremendous networking potential (25,000 km in total). There are two existing passenger train lines, with three more regional lines planned.

Participants asked if short-term integration of the railway system with countries in the region was to be expected. Mr Flores replied that there was great potential for freight, but passenger train integration would be slower as the internal network was weaker in comparison.

The third panel emphasised the potential development of tourism railways.

TopRail: opportunities derived from rail tourism
Vanessa Pérez Miranda, Senior Advisor to the Passenger Department and the Latin American Region, UIC

TopRail is a working group created in 2012 to increase the visibility and attractiveness of the railway through tourism and to identify new market opportunities. The group learned that tourism trains and services can be developed in a variety of ways, from adapted small regional trains to historical trains or modern rolling stock. Tourism services using trains create added value at the economic and social level where they optimise existing resources. Moreover, they help create a positive image of rail, detached from work-related experiences. Tourism trains thrive on new values and trends: sustainability, authenticity, local travel, work+vacation, and digital breaks. It was noted that sustainability can be a powerful marketing tool for the sector, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, as sustainable products are seen as safe and customers favour local destinations.

For more information, please visit www.toprail.org.
Rail Tourism in Latin America
Sergio D. Rojas, Business Development, Manager Latin America – TMH International

TMH International is comprised of 26 production and heavy maintenance plants and is present in 30 countries. It is renowned for high-quality rolling stock, a large array of on-board services, job creation across entire regions, and considerable revenues.
Tourist trains represent €300 million per year worldwide. They have a low environmental impact and reduced CO2 emissions, with great potential to mobilise local economies and at prices for all budgets. Most importantly, they promote rail to all sorts of communities. Mr Rojas shared a series of potential international tourism projects that it might be interesting to develop in the Latin American Region.

The Mayan Train, a project with great potential for the development of the creative economy and cultural tourism in south-eastern Mexico
Jordi Tresserras, UNESCO Mexico Consultant and Director of the Cultural Tourism and Heritage Laboratory of the University of Barcelona

Mr Tresserras explained the special accompanying programme for the holistic development of cultural and natural tourism along the route of the Mayan Train, the regional and federal programmes to promote cultural tourism, and the cultural experiences in community-based tourism on the Yucatán Peninsula: in short, the Peninsular Alliance for Community Tourism.

“Our roadmap: building partnerships and articulating policies, strategies and operational plans.”

For more information, please visit https://www.trenmaya.gob.mx/.

PeruRail: Tourist transport services
Alberto Valdez Galdos, General Manager of PeruRail

PeruRail is the leading rail operator on the country’s south and south-east routes, part of the Belmond Group, offering trips and luxury experiences to two of Peru’s most iconic destinations: Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. PeruRail also transports goods and minerals to the Port of Matarani and is the most efficient logistics operator covering the transport of large volumes of cargo by train in the south of Peru.

The company ensures ethical, responsible and respectful treatment of the law, the environment, communities, human rights and fair trade both in operations and with customers. Mr Valdez also highlighted all the protocols implemented in PeruRail trains to ensure the safety of passengers and inspire confidence in the trip.
The presentation showed the different tourism trains related to the different destinations.

To conclude the webinar, Mr Guigon reiterated the importance of sharing best practices and showing solidarity between members. He thanked the speakers for their enlightening contributions and ALAF for helping set up this webinar. Finally, he assured participants they could rely on UIC to guide and promote their future projects.

Mr Villafañe commended the success of this webinar, which had more than 250 registrations and hosted over 100 participants for its 5-hour duration. He also thanked the speakers, and the teams from ALAF and UIC for the organisation of the event.

For further information, please contact Vanessa Perez, Senior Advisor Passenger Department, Latin America Region at perez@uic.org