The second edition of the UIC Global Rail Freight Conference (GRFC) jointly organised by UIC and JSC “Russian Railways” (RZD) on 6 – 7 July in Saint-Petersburg was a success, attracting around 300 delegates from over 30 countries and the active involvement of a large number of high-level speakers representing rail freight and logistics companies from all over the world, transport operators, public authorities, international organisations (cf. UIC eNews No. 194 dated 6 July 2010).
The closing ceremony on 7 July was co-chaired by Vadim Morozov, First Vice-President of RZD and Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General
Vadim Morozov, speaking also on behalf of RZD President Vladimir Yakunin, stressed that Russian Railways attributed great importance to cooperation within UIC as “UIC’s worldwide consolidating role is huge”. He considered that actively participating in this organisation’s international activities was a strategic tool to strengthen the potential of Russian Railways and facilitate their integration into the worldwide transport network.
Mr. Morozov also reminded participants what Russian Railways considered as necessary strategic developments in order to use railways as an efficient means of boosting the economy and achieving objectives in the area of sustainable development. Efforts would have to be made to invest in railway infrastructure (with the State’s involvement), developing intercontinental (particularly Euro-Asian) corridors, promoting business ventures and partnerships, harmonising the legal framework and common standards for international railway operations worldwide.
He also thanked the delegates, speakers, sponsors and cooperating associations, and in particular UIC, for the success of this conference.
UIC Director General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux then took the floor to draw some initial conclusions from this world conference. He warmly thanked Russian Railways, their President Vladimir Yakunin, First Vice President Vadim Morozov, the company’s senior management as well as Alexei Averin and the whole team of the International Affairs department for their considerable support and the hospitality in Russia. He also thanked the UIC team led by Freight Director Oliver Sellnick for the preparation and success of this 2nd GRFC world conference.
Main conclusions and future challenges
Jean-Pierre Loubinoux then underlined in a closing address what he considered to be the main results and challenges at the end of this conference:
After two days of exchanges and discussions, three key points can be underlined:
First of all, it is important to note that following the crisis of 2008, both in scale and in market share, some signs of recovery are now encouraging and visible, though these signs are different depending on the various regions of the world and according to the relative share between wagonloads and full trains.
Secondly, anticipation is one of the key messages/words that appear in discussions. It is necessary to anticipate in order to put rail back in the picture and because all stakeholders – including rail operators, customers, political or financial institutions – consider rail freight to have strong potential to meet future needs in the transport of goods.
There are three reasons for this:
- Rail freight can be a global answer to a growing world trade economy
- Rail operators are better integrating customer needs and becoming international logistics operators, integrating services or international corridors
- Rail is a key player in the sustainability challenge and can contribute to an economical and social recovery
Finally there is strong potential in international and transcontinental corridors.
This comes with new long distance corridors in Europe, in Asia and between the two continents, but also in the Middle-East and America. This trend leads to a more productive approach to mode complementarities, sometimes called “optimodality”, between rail, road and sea. This brings us to the new concept of logistical hubs, served by road or rail links for distribution or collection of goods and connected by longer and heavier trains.
A better partnership approach is necessary as well, sometimes integrated in a corporate group approach, between sea ports, day ports and rail operators.
However, some progress still need to be achieved and rail can be more productive, more customer-oriented and more efficient. A number of areas where progress can be made have been identified during this conference.
- Improvement of interoperability, both intermodal and intra-modal interoperability, with better border crossing for example
- Improvement of the administration of the legal framework and working towards unification of railway laws, likewise for the sea transportation
- Improvement of the development of cooperation and partnerships with other railways, other business partners and among international organisations
- Improvement and increase in investment to develop the capacity of existing or new infrastructure links; the productivity of rail haulage with better traction and bigger containers or wagons and the range of services for customers, in particular to keep them better informed
UIC and its members are ready to work on these issues and organise the next conference to analyse the progress achieved in a new context.”