The UIC High-Level Passenger Meeting (HLPM), co-organised by UIC and CER (Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies), was held in hybrid format at UIC headquarters in Paris on 8 October 2021.
The HLPM started with an evening event on 7 October, hosted by UIC and CER, and sponsored by Accenture (Rail and Transit), to welcome passenger CEOs, managers and a number of high-level guests, who had not had a chance to see each other in person since 2019. The group was pleased to listen to its guest speaker Mary Crass, Head of Institutional Relations and Summit, International Transport Forum, OECD, who highlighted ITF’s commitment to the most challenging of transport issues, with rail as a priority area in ITF policy at global, regional and local level.
On 8 October, around 50 passenger railway representatives attended the meeting both physically and virtually to discuss strategic topics relating to the challenges faced by the European railways, notably in the areas of ticketing, international passenger networks, business recovery post-pandemic, and the European Year of Rail.
Welcome remarks were delivered by Alberto Mazzola, CER Executive Director and François Davenne, UIC Director General, followed by a keynote speech by Kristian Schmidt, Director Land Transport, European Commission. Mr Schmidt spoke about the political expectations for the Commission’s Efficient and Green mobility package, in particular with regard to plans to boost international rail passenger services and new legislative actions on ticketing to provide passengers in Europe with more international connections and easier ticketing options.
The areas of activity under the subject of Ticketing, announced by the Commission in its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy as one of the key milestones by 2030, were presented to the meeting by Vittorio Carta, Chairman of the UIC OSDM Executive Committee, Heike Luiten CEO NS International, Marco Kampp, CEO DB Long Distance International, and Marc Guigon, UIC Passenger Director. The speakers gave updates on the ticketing vision and roadmap for 2030, harmonising ticketing conditions, the UIC Merits European Timetable Database, the implementation of OSDM (Open Sales and Distribution Model), and the UIC eTCD Electronic Control Database, which enables real-time control of passenger tickets. These initiatives are coordinated within the sector with the aim of providing easier access to European rail tickets and to improve the overall customer experience when planning and booking rail journeys.
In addition, the meeting was shown the new UIC OSDM video, which explains the reasons why OSDM has been developed, which actors are involved in the initiative, and how it enables multimodal cross-border journeys in a single purchase, with the overall aim of making national and international passenger travel across Europe a seamless user experience. To watch the video click here: https://youtu.be/TVxQdq8nMAI
A second keynote speech was delivered by Christopher Irwin, member of the Board of the European Passengers’ Federation. Mr Irwin spoke about the EPF’s expectations in relation to international rail passenger services, with a focus on sustainability and smart mobility as potential ways forward to achieve a seamless network of integrated systems and synchronised mobility.
Frauke Quik, Business Consultant International Affairs, NS International, moderated the section on International Passenger Networks, with updates given by Ilaria De Dominicis, International Business Development Manager, Trenitalia, and Kurt Bauer, Head of Long-Distance Passenger Services and New Rail Business, ÖBB. Regarding international corridors, the aim is to create a seamless travel experience across Europe, boost passenger transport and modal shift, as well as take into account sustainability issues and decarbonisation targets.
The role of night trains was also presented as an important activity that could help contribute to increase rail’s market share. The meeting was informed about the creation of the UIC Night train Working Group (NTWG) which was launched on 9 September 2021 with ÖBB and Trenitalia as Chair and Vice-Chair. Further information on the NTWG group can be found in the September eNews article: https://uic.org/com/enews/article/first-meeting-of-the-uic-night-train-working-group-held-on-9-september-2021
The floor was given briefly to Carlo Boselli, General Manager, Interrail & Eurail Passes, who spoke about Interrail and DiscoverEU, reminding the meeting that 2022 is set to be the European Year of Youth and the 50th anniversary of Interrail.
Mr Boselli highlighted the importance of Interrail passes, which have been providing affordable mobility to millions of young people since 1972, and DiscoverEU, an EU initiative offering young people the opportunity to travel Europe, with the aim of helping Europe’s youth connect with the European identity and raise awareness of the core values of the European Union through travel.
Jacques Dirand, Head of Rail Freight Service, CER and Marc Guigon, UIC Passenger Director, gave updates on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on railway undertakings, business recovery, the new normal and economic consequences on mobility post-pandemic. Emphasis was placed on changing mobility trends and how rail transport needs to take advantage of these upheavals and use this window of opportunity of about 10 to 15 years to strengthen its competitiveness and increase its modal share.
An update was given on the European Year of Rail, the aim of which is to promote rail at all levels across the EU, through dedicated events and communication campaigns, as an attractive and sustainable way to travel across Europe, to citizens, businesses and authorities. The journey of the Connecting Europe Express, the flagship project of the European Year of Rail, was described in detail by Libor Lochman, CEE Project Manager.
The train, which departed Lisbon on 2 September and arrived in Paris on 7 October, passed through 26 countries and travelled for more than 20,000 km, thanks to the contribution of 40 railway partners. The overall aim was show citizens at local and national level that rail is a sustainable and smart mobility service and to demonstrate the power and potential of the TEN-T network to connect people and businesses across Europe.
In the framework of the European Year of Rail, UIC hosted the Rail Accessibility Day, a one-day online international event under the mottos #YesWeCare and #YesRailCares, to make the various stakeholders aware of the efforts made and the challenges faced by the railway community to improve accessibility for all.
Vanessa Pérez, UIC Senior Passenger Advisor, updated the meeting on the UIC Passage Group, the PRM (Passengers with Reduced Mobility) Booking Tool, and work on how to address accessibility within the context of the post-Covid reality. Ms Pérez gave a detailed report on the Accessibility conference, which was attended by around 180 participants featuring more than 20 high-level representatives from various international organisations, institutions, the industry and railway companies, as well as UIC experts, and consisted of a round table followed by four panel sessions addressing, among others, the challenges to improve and harmonise accessibility at international level in the railways, sustainability and customer experience, digitalisation and stations.
Read more about the event here: https://uic.org/com/enews/article/uic-rail-accessibility-day-held-on-5-october-2021-online
Finally, the closing remarks were delivered by Alberto Mazzola and François Davenne. They underlined the need to respond to the various challenges and expectations facing the railway sector and the importance of delivering a strong message, vision and narrative for 2030 which will give shape to the future of rail and the rail map for the years to come.
Mr Davenne and Mr Mazzola thanked the participants for attending this fruitful meeting and it was announced that the next High-Level Passenger Meeting would take place on 6 October 2022 in Budapest, at the kind invitation of MÁV START.