The 22nd UIC Regional Assembly for Europe (RAE) – bringing together 117 members – and the European Management Committee (EMC) of UIC held a combined meeting on 30 May 2016 on the fringes of the World Congress on Railway Research (WCRR). This meeting was arranged at the kind invitation of Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane (FSI), whose new Chairman, Mr Renato Mazzoncini, welcomed the participants to Milan.
RAE President Bernard Guillelmon (CEO, BLS) welcomed two special guests who opened the meeting with core messages that underlined the importance of the relationship between their organisations and the UIC and the very important role of railways in developing the future, sustainable economic transport backbone in Europe.
Mr Christian Friis Bach, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) focussed on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in cooperation with UIC and Mr Henry Marty-Gauquié, Honorary Director of the European Bank of Investment (EIB) highlighted the current investment gaps that the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) – the “Juncker Plan” – intends to address and outlined the opportunities to transfer unused capital into real economic development.
Bernard Guillelmon informed the meeting of some recent changes affecting the RAE and in particular that Mr Christian Kern, CEO ÖBB and CER Chairman and Vice President RAE had been invited to fill the role of Chancellor in the Austrian government. The RAE unanimously wished to express their thanks for his contribution to the work of the ROC in Europe and wished him every success in his new role.
The RAE considered a number of very current topics including digitalisation, research and standardisation.
The RAE saluted the collaborative initiative of the CER, CIT, EIM and UIC teams in drawing up a ROC-inspired Roadmap for Digital Railways which was published on 25 April 2016. It will be important for this roadmap to be properly developed into concrete deliverables that will be of benefit to the future European railway system.
Some of this development will be taken into consideration by the recently-formed Digital Platform that takes stakeholders from each of the UIC’s regions.
The platform is acting as an incubator of ideas that will enable the rail operating community to develop concepts and ideas for digital evolution. The platform has run its first workshop on cyber-security which took place in Washington in May 2016; a second digital seminar focussing on Passenger and Freight services is planned for 7 October in Paris. There will also be a Digital Open Day with show and tell opportunities as well as a conference to facilitate interaction between railways and start-ups in the digital arena, an ecosystem where ideas that could be used in the future railway system may already be gestating.
Research and Innovation
In response to a key message from the ERRAC President, Professor Andy Doherty, the Assembly confirmed its strong intention to continue engagement with and play a leading role in the European Railway Research Advisory Council (ERRAC). It is important that the ROC has a strong voice in the future research and innovation agenda and be able to jointly influence development of European rail R&I with other sector stakeholders.
The RAE also endorsed the revised Research and Innovation Coordination Group (RICG) terms of reference, now more than ever focussing on working with the research and innovation strategies of individual companies, bringing the ideas together to a focal point and helping them to translate the ideas into planned developmental work through various vehicles.
The new South-East European Strategic Alliance for Rail Innovation (SEESARI) initiative, which was presented to the assembly by Dr Peter Verlic of the Research Institute of Slovenian railways (SZ), is now starting to gather momentum and has brought together some will be also monitored in its developments at regional level.
Standardisation is a very important aspect of a successful rail system. Having fit-for-purpose user-friendly standards enables the ROC to be collaborative and consistent as well as efficient, customer-focussed and cost-effective. Standards are an efficient way of enhancing interoperability and cutting operating costs and are something that the UIC has been undertaking for the railway system long before the current multiplicity of actors entered the European arena. The former UIC Leaflets and the more recent emergence of IRSs are a core part of the very fabric of the railway system today.
The meeting took the opportunity to reaffirm the standardisation leadership role that the UIC has for the railway operating community right around the world as well as in Europe. Despite a number of potential misunderstandings by some stakeholders, UIC publications are produced using consensual processes amongst its constituents and partner organisations and foster a framework of transparency, openness, impartiality and consensus. The products that are the result of this framework are designed with effectiveness, coherence and relevance to the railway system in mind.
The meeting learned that there is a current challenge from a number of stakeholders related to terminology. There is ongoing dialogue with these bodies and a solution is anticipated that will quickly remove these misunderstandings and facilitate the UIC in doing the standardisation role that it has been mandated to do by the railway operating community.
The assembly was presented with the final version of the Railway Standardisation Strategy Europe (RSSE) which has been developed for the ROC by a stakeholder working group. It is intended to set out a number of practical points that will then be enabled so that this becomes something of a guiding mind for the development of future rail sector standards.