Tuesday 13 July 2021

UIC brings its members together for its 98th General Assembly

Key issues discussed include Research, Innovation and Digital Transformation, Standardisation, Sustainable Development and Ticketing (OSDM)

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UIC brought its members together virtually on 7 and 8 July for its Executive Board and 98th General Assembly. The meetings were chaired for the last time by UIC Chairman Gianluigi Castelli. His mandate ended at the end of the General Assembly. On this occasion, he wished to say a few words: “It has been an honour and a pleasure to chair UIC as Chairman for this term and to have the opportunity to work for the development of the rail business around the world. Your diversity on the one hand and our common vision and purpose on the other have delivered unique value. We have created a common and solid path, following the same direction and staying resilient.”

At the end of the UIC General Assembly, Mr. Krzysztof Mamiński, CEO of PKP (Polskie Koleje Panstwowe, Polish State Railways) became the new Chairman of UIC and Mr. Mohamed Khlie, CEO of ONCF (Office National des Chemins de Fer, Moroccan State Railways) became the UIC Vice-Chairman, both for a 2-and-a-half-year mandate until 31 December 2023.

Mr. Krzysztof Mamiński said: “The railways are on the threshold of enormous challenges! The objectives we set ourselves collectively as a railway sector reflect socio-economic expectations: we are all aware of the need to combat climate change and of the role of railways, which have an extremely important role to play in the logistics and transport chain. UIC’s collaboration with United Nations bodies, our activity in this area, offers the opportunity to better influence the UN agenda on issues such as intercontinental corridors, the future COP26 conference and work on global sustainable development, where rail should play a leading role.
It can be assumed that there is a strong momentum across sectors and geographies to address the challenge of climate change. For any national or local government, transport is a key part of the economy, typically accounting for 25 to 30 per cent of CO2 emissions from fuel combustion. In regions such as Europe, rail accounts for less than two per cent of total transport emissions. Given rail’s status as the most sustainable mode of transport, increasing its share will directly reduce transport’s contribution to emissions in the region and to total emissions in general.
We need to increase our market share, to develop transport, not only nationally and cross-border, but also intercontinentally. To achieve this, we need active cooperation in the areas of standardisation, harmonisation, rail technology and innovation to further decarbonise the rail value chain, with measures such as optimising energy consumption and using digitalisation

Mr. Mohamed Khlie said: “The rail mode has certainly demonstrated its resilience, adaptability and solidity during the Covid-19 crisis by mobilising to continue to ensure the transport of various essential products. However, our sector has been severely impacted and will have to reconsider its repositioning strategy, while highlighting its distinctive assets and the challenge of intelligent, low-carbon mobility in the face of increasingly tough competition. The recent changes and upheavals challenge us all to persevere and even accelerate our quest for good standardisation, constantly innovative digitalisation, avant-garde technical and technological solutions and creativity in strengthening and promoting inter-regional cooperation and strategic alliances. This type of cooperation promotes the development of multimodality and regional and continental rail corridors, in addition to our constant concern to guarantee the safety and interoperability of our systems. Faced with these challenges, we all have the ambition to amplify this strategic vision in order to implement the railways of tomorrow as the backbone of mobility, the key words of which are: to go even further, to be stronger, more efficient, more united and more useful.

The new governance is described in this press release.

A keynote speech was given by Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN Habitat (United Nations Human Settlements Programme). She spoke about the role of railways in connecting cities and driving sustainable growth. Stations should be designed with the objective of good intermodal connectivity. She highlighted that, in the new urban agenda, there is a greater need in localising the SDGs for coordination within national and local transport authorities. She said: “As UN Habitat, we look forward to working with UIC in promoting such coordination and working jointly towards sustainable and climate goals”. She also announced that UIC and UN Habitat are preparing an MoU to carry such a collaboration forward.

Report from the UIC Chairman
Mr. Gianluigi Castelli started by reminding the audience of the importance of dialogue and partnership: “We are eager to cooperate with a broad variety of stakeholders, in accordance with the UIC values of Unity, Solidarity and Universality”. He particularly highlighted the work done by the UIC Covid-19 Task Force, which has now demonstrated all its importance as a great platform for agile crisis management and global exchange. He said: “We aim to accommodate a “new normal”, and the Task Force is now developing long-term rail business models that will help us move forward, and remain resilient in the long run”.
He continued: “The current year – 2021 – is definitely marking a turning point in our events activity. Not only is 2021 “the year after” the emergency outbreak, but also the centenary of the foundation of UIC, the anniversary of many railway events all around the world and – of course – the European Year of Rail. This is a unique initiative supporting the European Green Deal objectives in the field of transport. As we are well aware, a series of events, campaigns and initiatives in 2021 and 2022 will promote rail as a sustainable, innovative and safe mode of transport. It will highlight its benefits for people, the economy and the climate and focus on the remaining challenges to create a truly integrated rail and mobility network. The European Year of Rail is an unmissable chance for the railway community. This is the moment to “hop on the train” and play a starring role in this context. The UIC is fully involved in planning a wide array of events and initiatives and welcomes the contribution of any member and stakeholder.”

  • Research, Innovation and Digital Transformation
    He said: “In a world that has suddenly and completely changed, digitalisation technology must provide us with the new technical and strategic capabilities that are required to meet both new customer needs and rigorous safety requirements. It is therefore vital to rely on the best cooperation between interregional railways and worldwide telecommunication players. In fact, new 5G networks offer fully fledged solutions for all the dimensions of railways: operations, maintenance and renewal and also passenger and freight services. A good cooperation with telecommunication operators is also beneficial for the deployment of CCS Technologies (ERTMS, FRMCS, PTCS in the US, ATACS in Japan, KLUB in Russia), now the very heart of the technical UIC strategy. Indeed, while the mere research phase is now supported by a clear funding strategy, many steps still need to be taken towards a proper deployment financing plan on a global level. This will be crucial in making the railway assets interoperable and increasing their modal share in the transportation mix.
    He continued: “Also, we are seeking the best possible articulation between projects and research funding partners (for example, the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking, among others), in order to make the modal shift desirable and to attract more public investment to the railway. Our commitment in that respect is evident in our will to contribute to the System Pillar of the new rail iPPP. This would be the right environment to get all the intelligence together and to define formal methods that are pluggable and reusable in our sector as well as in other industries – military, aviation, automotive or aerospace”.
  • Standardisation
    Mr. Castelli highlighted that “R&D can, and should, become the principal engine that boosts the standardisation process. Establishing common standards of interoperability is of course a long and complex process, requiring the contribution and expertise of many international rail professionals. And the UIC is always first in line when it comes to driving the definition of appropriate standards, embedding them into our business and re-designing the world market”. He underlined the publication of the “Technical Solutions for the Operational Railway” as another important tool for harmonising rail transport and serving our members efficiently. He also stressed the positive work that is progressing with key external stakeholders such as ERA, EIM, CER, UNIFE and many others. He said: “This once again proves our constant commitment to synergise, to “share, open and connect” at a global level”.
  • Sustainable Development
    COP26 in Glasgow in November (see the video) will let UIC exploit this momentum to organize a variety of events and railway activities. UIC is also involved in many other activities in line with the Green Deal objectives and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The creation of a new framework of CSR scoring criteria for railway companies within the Eco-Scoring Working Group is a relevant deliverable that is currently being enhanced. He concluded by saying: “This ambitious schedule is finally supported by a whole new internal governance structure. The new Sustainability Platform will certainly play a more comprehensive role in all domains of sustainability and social responsibility”.

Mid-term report from the UIC Director General
UIC Director General François Davenne paid tribute to Gianluigi Castelli and Ali İhsan Uygun for everything they have done: “Everything that is done at UIC is a joint collaboration with our members.” He firstly emphasised the good news, saying that the indicators are excellent, mentioning the results of the satisfaction survey: the global satisfaction increased from 65% to 75%, the association’s dynamism from 56% to 66%, and project management from 60% to 68%.

He also announced the retirement of Jerzy Wisniewski, Director of the Fundamental Values Department and Coordinator of the Middle East Region, and the appointment of Marc Guigon, Director of the Passenger Department and Coordinator of the Latin America Region as the new Coordinator of the Middle East Region.
UIC will continue to implement its strategy with three key words: Accountability, Focus and the development of Interregional Activities.

Regarding Accountability: François Davenne started by describing the financial stability results according to the forecast. He also mentioned the latest UIC publication, the UIC Activity booklet describing the 136 working groups constituting the technical strength of UIC.

He also emphasised the notion of a personalised relationship with the various UIC members, which can be promoted by being more attentive to the interests of the members. The improvement of a Members’ Relations Management through more frequent bilateral meetings for validating individual strategies is indeed one of the current UIC priorities.

He also stressed UIC’s focus on proven UIC added values: he underlined the sense of urgency, namely a 10-year window of opportunity for investments to be directed towards our sector. “The UIC is going to engage in this process.” He also informed the members of the need to advocate rail in preparing a compelling narrative within the UIC Sustainability Task Force, recently set up and composed of representatives from all the UIC regions and of technical experts.

  • In terms of freight, he mentioned the involvement of freight CEOs in Europe through Rail Freight Forward in developing digital platforms and capacity management, as well as the development of tools for international corridors (see the video on this subject).
  • In terms of passengers, he particularly insisted on the development of a global vision within the Global Passenger Forum. The success of OSDM (Open Sales and Distribution Model – seethe factsheet) that will be included in the EU regulation was also mentioned. Without forgetting the upcoming events, UIC NextStation to be held in the United States in 2022 and the UIC World Congress on High-Speed Rail “UIC HIGHSPEED” to be held in Beijing in 2022 (see the Save the Date).
  • Regarding System: the members were informed of a new steering structure composed of prominent Chief Technical Officers and the UIC participation in Europe’s rail. He took this opportunity to also mention the work on structuring projects: Artificial intelligence, Telecom, Modelling and DAC (Digital Automatic Coupling).

Finally, he mentioned the development of interregional projects. The objectives are to

  • Mobilise public financing, not only in Europe but also in the UIC Asia-Pacific region in implementing sound IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) protection.
  • Ensure that key UIC developments such as FRMCS (Future Railway Mobile Communication System) can be used internationally.
  • Develop together the technical specifications for the future railway.
  • Encourage the use of public financing in all the regions: this has started with the EU and it will develop further with Europe’s rail uptake by the end of 2021

Finally, he reminded the audience that UIC has a precise and highly operational role for railways: “We are delivering key tools for networks to perform safely. We can collectively be proud of what we have achieved,” he declared.

Regarding the Chair of the Talent & Expertise Development Platform (TEDP), the mandate of Esther Marconi (FSI) expired at the beginning of January 2021, when she retired. The candidature of Mr. Miguel Mesquita Faro Viana from INFRAESTRUTURAS DE Portugal (IP) was submitted to, and approved by, the Steering Committee of TEDP on 14 January, 2021 for a three-year mandate.

Cooperation with third parties
During the General Assembly, UIC signed several Memoranda of Understanding:
Firstly, a Memorandum with Shift2Rail. The scope of this Memorandum of Understanding is to promote cooperation between UIC and the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (S2R JU):

  • to support the structured implementation of the S2R JU innovative solutions;
  • to deliver a functional system approach that is suited to the operational needs of the sector and, in particular, of the final users.
    The areas of cooperation envisaged may involve and cover: overall cooperation in the field of sustainability and low-carbon solutions, Innovation Programme 2 (IP2)and Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) consistency, data modelling, functional System Architecture and in particular interfaces definition, and systemic liaison between UIC and the S2R JU. More details on this MoU in this joint press release.

UIC also signed a Memorandum with UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations), with IFF (Railway Training Institute), with the Smart Ticketing Alliance and with FIATA (see the press release), and also reinforced its collaboration with IEA (the International Energy Agency).

The OSDM (Open Sales and Distribution Model) scope was presented. The aims of OSDM are to sustantially simplify and improve the booking process for customers of rail trips and to reduce complexity and distribution costs for distributors and railway carriers. In a nutshell, OSDM strengthens rail and public transportation as a convenient and ecological means of transportation by simplifying distribution. Finally, it lays a solid foundation which can be extended to include the distribution of other means of transportation.

UIC Post-Covid-19 “New Normal”: White Paper on the resumption of business post-Covid-19 pandemic; recommendations for the railway sector
The Covid pandemic hit the rail sector very hard in 2020, impacting both the passenger and freight sectors and is still having a huge impact. It is also complicated to have a mid- to long-term vision concerning when it will end, as the world now has to face different variants and the vaccination campaigns are far from over. The UIC and Roland Berger Strategy Consultants have developed a study on the “new normal”, post-Covid-19 situation, and business resumption.

Information on the communication strategy of the UIC Digital Platform was presented during the Assembly. Since 2015, the UIC Digital Platform has developed relationships and synergies with start-ups, mainly through the Digital Awards process. In order to reinforce the existing cooperation between the rail sector and the worldwide digital ecosystem on the one hand, and to respond to the demand of the start-ups on the other, a directory was created with all the start-ups in relations with the UIC Digital Platform, including information about their activities and projects, as well as a LinkedIn profile to stimulate exchanges between the rail sector and the start-ups. There was also a report on the status of DIGIM II. Francis Bédel, who is leading the UIC Digital Platform as Chief Digital Officer and who manages the IT UIC Department, will be leaving at the end of the summer. However, he will continue his tasks for the Digital Platform for one further year.

The 2020 accounts were approved.

New members
The General Assembly approved the application of the following members:

African Region:
GTS, freight and passenger operator from Senegal as an associate member; SENTER, (future) infrastructure manager from Senegal as an affiliate member

Asia-Pacific region:
CRRC ZIC, Chinese Rail Research Centre as an affiliate member

European region:
Eurail, rail passes management company as an affiliate member

Latin America
ALAF (Latin American Railways Association) as an affiliate member; ANPTrilhos Brazilian, National Association of Passenger Rail Carriers as an affiliate member

The next Executive Board and 99th General Assembly are planned as physical meetings on 10 December, 2021.

UIC outputs shared with UIC members during the General Assembly:

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Gianluigi Castelli, former President of Ferrovie dello Stato and former Chairman of UIC
François Davenne, UIC Director General
Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN Habitat (United Nations Human Settlements Programme)
Krzysztof Mamiński, CEO of PKP and new Chair of UIC
Mohamed Khlie, CEO of ONCF (Office National des Chemins de Fer, Moroccan State Railways) became the UIC Vice-Chairman
Marc Guigon, UIC Passenger Director, Coordinator Middle-East and Latin-American Regions, Coordinator UIC Covid-19 Taskforce
Retirement of Jerzy Wisniewski, Director of the Fundamental Values Department and Coordinator of the Middle East Region
Francis Bédel, who is leading the UIC Digital Platform as Chief Digital Officer and who manages the IT UIC Department, will be leaving at the end of the summer
Célia Lévy, UIC Chief Standardisation Officer
Lucie Anderton, Head of UIC Sustainable Development Unit
Parinaz Bazeghi, UIC Digital Project Manager