An event organised last night by MERMEC at Innotrans in Berlin brought together several actors to discuss Digitalisation in the Rail sector. Among them were Andrea Certo, MERMEC Chief Executive Officer, Renato Mazzoncini, Chief Executive Officer Italian Railways FSi, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC General Director, Graziano Delrio, Italian Minister of Infrastructure and Transport and Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Mobility and Transport.
During the event, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux gave a speech in which he said:
In a few figures, UIC is 200 members in 100 countries, one million kilometres of rail lines, and seven million railway men and women working to help serve the mobility of seven billion people on earth. UIC also holds on average 85 conferences every year in 50 cities.
Our values our Unity, Solidarity and Universality. Our philosophy is to share, open and connect.
This is why we are not working alone and we are developing many synergies with other international associations and bodies. We cooperate as you can see with 100 partner institutions, among which the most important is our consultative status at the UN – ECOSOC, and my personal role as member of the High-Level Group on Sustainable Transport and Advisor to the Secretary-General of the UN.
Since its creation in 1922 UIC has been and is primarily a technical and business platform developing for and with its members and partners from the industry specifications, technical documents and processes, which are all international solutions for operation, design, construction, maintenance, management, commercial services of the railway system.
UIC has also been a pioneer in the domains of railway research and innovation across the world, and the promotion of four fundamental values: safety, security, sustainability and the transmission of knowledge of good and best practices to younger generations.
One of my predecessors at UIC said that rail would be the mode of transport of the 21st century. It does not act alone but as part of the backbone of a new optimised transport mix in a globalised and growing need for the mobility of goods and people.
Rail has indeed lived through three main revolutions: nearly two centuries ago the first industrial revolution, transforming a world based on agriculture to an industrial and commercial world. Rail with the steam engine and metallic structures was an actor and vector of this development. Then the middle of the 20th century electric power and innovative technology survived with the birth of high speed and European networks.
Now with the emergence of new technology we have entered what Jeremy Rifkin calls the third industrial revolution: the Digital Era. Transport modes and railways as the backbone must take advantage of this new opening. After technical and administrative interoperability we must carry out the standardisation work of integration between informationisation and industrialisation. CDOs (Chief Data Officers) are appointed among most of our members and UIC on behalf of the railway community decided at the last General Assembly to create a digital platform. This platform aims to share creative ideas, to ensure harmonisation, to support new developments and to boost innovation. It has identified three main areas of potential interest: security, services and productivity. More specifically, three workshops have been organised this year: in Washington in June on Security; in Paris in the next few weeks on Passenger and Freight; and in Beijing next March on IoT input in Services and Infrastructure.
In addition, a Digital Awards campaign has been launched with the thousands of start-ups that can boost the traditional creative process of rail companies with crowd-funding, crowd-sourcing, open sources and open data.
UIC has also initiated the development of several prototypes known as Proof of Concepts: concrete answers to concrete questions such as the detection of shunting defects on track circuits. These prototypes, presented to our members, will be the basis for new IRSs (International Railway Solutions) which will then be passed on to industry.
The second edition of our digital conference will be held during our General Assembly in Saint-Petersburg on the theme of more capacity and more and better connectivity – and a mission is planned next year in Silicon Valley.
So to conclude this quick overview, if we know that by 2030 two billion people will be urbanised; two billion people have no access to any means of transport; two billion people live on less than one dollar a day; and that there will be two billion more people on earth if we realise that by 2030 the Internet of Things (IoT) will add 10 – 15 trillion dollars to global GDP; if we agree that transport is the mobility of goods and people and is therefore the key to social economic growth; if we share the opinion that rail is the backbone of a new optimised transport modal mix, then the question is not if or when we survive this third digital revolution, but how fast we catch up with it and become a vector and driver of it.
UIC, on behalf of all its members around the world – some more advanced or developed than others – but all with the same concern and determination to be developing together, has already started to share, to open and to connect.