UIC is participating this week in the 4th Transport Forum organised by the Asian Development Bank. This Forum, which aims at facilitating knowledge-sharing amongst transport practitioners in Asia and the Pacific, highlighting innovative approaches to packaging and scaling up sustainable transport initiatives and benchmarking progress in advancing sustainable transport in the region, groups together more than 500 participants from 50 countries.
Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, is participating as a panelist in two plenary sessions during the Forum.
During the plenary session on “Resurgence and Reform of Railways in Asia” held on 16 September, he shared his views on the important lessons and challenges of implementing railway reforms in Europe and Asia.
During his speech, he said:
“Transportation means mobility of goods and people and therefore has an obvious link with economic development. Railways as a transport mode has always played that role – socially and economically – in different ways though, depending on the period of time, the situation of the country, the region, or whether we are in developed or developing countries. In the 19th century in Europe, America or other places in the world, construction of infrastructure was an incentive to develop and to progress. It also created jobs and was considered an instrument for land planning. If you look at the job act of President Obama this has also been true in recent periods to get out of structural financial crises.
The second half of the 20th century saw the competition of modes in a much more liberal approach, but not really with the ultimate goal of customer satisfaction. With the scarcity of resources, with competition as well, there was now a need to be more productive, and this was not easy for rail because rail is expensive to build, to operate and to maintain. So there was a decline of rail, except of course for the success of TGV.
But now, in the 21st century, rail appears to be favoured again by governments and financial institutions such as the Asian Bank of Development (ABD), because rail has many assets. And this has meant a new approach for governments with three needs:
The first need is an accounting separation, to better identify costs, and this is crucial.
The second is the creation of open infrastructure for open access, to be optimised.
And the third is to increase and secure density and safety of infrastructure. With the new approach is the need to meet customer expectations across the world, which can be summarised as punctuality, comfort, door-to-door service, and easy access to information. That is the whole philosophy of European railway reform since it started in 1991 with its four railway packages and its three pillars: technical, market and governance.
A number of lessons can be learned and this is a very long process. Separating rail infrastructure is not as easy as separating telecoms because of the very technical nature of trains and rails. This is why a system vision and some technical integration are necessary for the optimisation of maintenance, renovation, development and innovation. The customer also now needs more complementarity of intra-city and inter-city modes to smooth the interfaces.
But there are a number of improvements in the new ways of financing with the BTP and the integration of the social return in addition to the financial return, as well as the building of missing links in the networks. This works in Europe and can also work in Asia if you take for example the links between India and Burma, the Mongolian link between China and Russia and the project of the great Mekong link between Singapore and Kunming in China. Also the services have grown through the input of competition. No model in fact is perfect and no model is alike. But there are two main ideas to keep in mind in every region’s approach. The first is to consider that rail is part of land planning such as roads or waterways – but with a level playing field and harmonised conditions – and also to be customer driven.”
Another plenary session, on “Sustainable Transport Champions”, to be held on 17 September, will give him the opportunity to discuss how hard it can be to make political decisions to promote sustainable urban living through environmentally-friendly and equitable transport policies.
Jean-Pierre Loubinoux also had several meetings with representatives of the Asian Development Bank, giving him the opportunity to promote, among other subjects, the world’s first Railway Global Executive MBA.