Around 250 participants from over 30 countries are attending the 3rd Global Rail Freight Conference (GRFC) which opened today in Tangier, Morocco, jointly organised by UIC and Moroccan Railways (ONCF) under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI. A number of Director Generals of UIC Member Railways from across the world attended the conference. The first two editions brought together several hundred stakeholders from the economic, transport and logistics sectors, as well as institutional decision-makers, first of all in Delhi in 2007, and then in Saint-Petersburg in 2010, together with Russian Railways.
The opening ceremony was presided by Mr Lahcen Daoudi, Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research of Morocco, Mr Fouad El Omari, Mayor of Tangier, Mr Mohamed Rabie Khlie, Director-General of ONCF and Chairman of the UIC African Region, Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director-General of UIC, with the participation of Mr Salman Babayev, Vice President of Russian Railways (RZD) and Mr Henry des Longchamps, representing the World Bank.
“Rail Freight: what role does it play in the development of global logistics?” is the overarching theme for this 3rd Global Rail Freight Conference which will be discussed during two days between the representatives from all stakeholders, not just from the railways but all those involved in the global logistics system: logistics operators, maritime transport, ports, intermodal operators, the supply industry, forwarders, and commercial intermediaries – not forgetting all the authorities such as customs and international institutions which address transport issues.
According to Mr Lahcen Daoudi, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research of Morocco, railway transport is an essential element to boost competition and growth. Thanks to its role in global logistics systems, Morocco can become a bridge linking Europe to Africa.
Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director-General of UIC stressed “the world economy is currently hit by the crisis, particularly the financial crisis, which is affecting several regions in the world. But this should not conceal the very positive long-term outlook for transport demand worldwide. Moreover forecasts up to 2050 point to renewed growth in transport demand, at 80% for freight and 50% for passenger transport. Rail freight transport is expected to grow eight times, with passenger transport forecast to grow 12 times.”
Furthermore: “this impressive growth forecast is due to rail freight’s major advantages in terms of performance – particularly over long distances – its large capacity, safety and reliability, and contribution to sustainable development. These advantages are set to be complemented by stronger integration with other operators in the logistics chain, the building of new inter-continental freight corridors, the introduction of new innovative technologies to optimise the global supply chain, and the creation of hubs that perform effectively with other modes and services.”
According to Mr Mohamed Rabie Khlie, Director General of ONCF and Chairman of UIC Africa, integration of rail freight in global logistics system is a priority, even more a strategic axis in order to reinforce the position of rail transport. The rail sector in Morocco follows this global trend. In order to accelerate the improvement of performances in terms of quality and volumes ONCF signed a contract programme with the Moroccan government for the period 2010-2015 that was ratified under the presidency of His Majesty King Mohamed VI. The new roadmap aims to achieve an important step in quality terms in order to better meet the expectations of society.
Speaking as Chairman of the UIC African Region Mr Mohamed Rabie Khlie stressed that integration in logistics systems provides new opportunities to support the development of rail transport on the African continent.
According to Mr Salman Babayev, Vice President of Russian Railways (RZD), “no railway acting on its own can succeed; the main challenge consists in exchanging on major trends of global logistics, accelerating combined transport and developing corridors in an integrated approach.”
Mr Henry des Longchamps from the World Bank described the action of the Bank for African countries. He underlined that projects have better perspectives to be supported by the Bank if they are not exclusively railway projects but projects integrated in a truly multi-modal logistic chain.
All these issues and challenges will be the main focus of debate during this two-day GRFC in Tangier. Participants will also discuss more specific developments for freight and logistics in the Moroccan region and more generally in the Mediterranean.
The opening ceremony was followed by the 1st session dedicated to the role of the Mediterranean area in the future of global logistics.
More information will follow in the next edition of UIC eNews.