Tuesday 27 March 2018

UIC and its work in the standardisation domain - the challenges as seen by Laurent Schmitt, chair of the Standardisation Platform

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The UIC has played a key role in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of today’s railways through the standardisation programme that has been at the core of its work for the very nearly 100 years of its life.
The documents produced by the UIC are a high value common asset for the whole railway community, ensuring interoperability and safety, sharing of best practice, and providing guidelines for optimised operation and for the efficient implementation of innovative practices.
The former UIC leaflets and now the emerging IRSs, allow rail stakeholders worldwide to speak a common language and have always been a major factor for strengthening the UIC values of unity, universality and solidarity.

Previously deeply involved in UIC activities through a five-year secondment, I could measure from inside the important role that the UIC plays for the development of the railway system of tomorrow and I feel especially honoured to be able to engage my energy and skills in playing a small part in the future direction of rail. I want to thank Jean-Pierre Loubinoux for his confidence in appointing me as Chair of the Standardisation Platform.

Standardisation is of course of worldwide interest although each region of the railway world has its specific needs. The considerable work undertaken by my predecessor Stefano Guidi and the UIC standardisation team has successfully recalibrated the pendulum of standardisation work and, in Europe in particular, has brought the strengths that that the UIC can bring to the sector, back to the fore.
With the implementation of the European 4th Railway Package, the opening up of markets, the increasing use of new technologies and digitalisation in railway operations and the evolution of mobility, the need for standardisation is stronger than ever, especially in some very new subject areas.

Together with the Representative Bodies and the Standards Organisations, the UIC has a major standards-setting role to play in highlighting the operational requirements of the railway operating community and providing state-of-the-art solutions for the good not only of its member companies but of all railway stakeholders.
It goes without saying that the work undertaken by the UIC is stakeholder driven. This has resulted in a series of challenging objectives that have become our mantra:
• The first of these is to keep on reinforcing our relationships with our partners of the European and International standardisation ecosystems.
For many years it was the UIC that was the unique standards setter in the global railway domain, aiming at harmonising the large diversity of non-interoperable European networks.

The establishment of the European Union, the development of European Directives and Regulations and the growing position of standardisation bodies had the risk of being seen as a competitive threat, challenging the very essence of the foundation that the railway forefathers had built up through the UIC.
The important work done by the previous team and more recently by Simon Fletcher, Célia Levy and the standardisation team, has considerably helped to improve the relationships between UIC and the other stakeholders and to clarify the scope of our respective responsibilities, allowing progress with better complementarity and understanding in a constructive partnership.
In Europe, UIC is a member of the Sector Forum Rail (also known as JPCR), the sector body for the programming and coordination of standardisation within the scope of work undertaken by the European Standardisation Bodies (CEN, CENELEC and ETSI). It is also a member of the European Commission’s RASCOP platform, ensuring that the strengths and the foundational heritage are being brought to a different and even more efficient level.
There are also well-developed interfaces with the international standardisation bodies such as ISO and IEC with whom an emerging programme of joint initiatives is being developed.

It is in the emerging areas such as digitalisation, information technologies, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, to only mention the most crucial ones, that coordination will be the most challenging. It is important that the standards published in these areas are able to cover not only the risks to the rail system but that they are identifying user-friendly solutions that will drive the sector forward.
At European level, the recently negotiated Technical Agreement with CEN and CENELEC will contribute to this good understanding and efficient cooperation, but since IT technologies issues have a worldwide impact and are addressed at a global scale, we also need to reinforce similar liaisons and coordination with the standardisation bodies at world level.
• Enhancing the connections with our standardisation partners and highlighting UIC’s contribution to the regulatory and standardisation framework results in much greater visibility and brings with it a second challenge: quality.
The migratory process from leaflets to IRSs, under the supervision of Stefano Guidi, has given a strong push towards a higher quality in the revision and development of our leaflets, taking into account regional particularities and offering solutions that are fit for all.

It is vital that we continue to progress towards the objective of producing high value and meaningful documents. This means working in the framework of the UIC Quality Management System, regularly questioning the relevance and validity of our IRSs and leaflets, withdrawing the obsolete and unnecessary ones, involving more experts in the revisions and new developments, and ensuring that there is a truly system approach across all the topic areas of the railway sector.
The creation of a dedicated Standardisation Unit, acting as a cross-functional team dedicated to enable IRS developments in a totally transverse fashion, is a major evolution to achieve a higher quality and to express the ROC requirements in an optimised manner.

  • The lack of resources in terms of available experts is probably the main challenge we have to overcome.
    In my opinion, the first lever to arouse the mobilisation of our expert resources is quality. Experts will commit to IRS projects that make sense, that are fully integrated in the global standardisation framework they are already involved in, providing solutions for what the railway operating community needs and is responsible for, with no overlap but with an optimal complementarity and coherence with the global standardisation effort.

In some cases, opening up the working groups of the UIC to the technical inputs of some experts from the supply industry or other relevant non-UIC members such as universities (UIC maintaining full responsibility for the document of course), could and will improve the technical value of our IRSs and their coherence with outside standardisation activities. This has been done successfully in the past and I intend that the Standardisation Platform encourages that further.

It is essential, and I know that it the guiding star for the |UIC’s Standardisation Unit, that the development of IRSs brings value to the results of research, providing visibility, stability and helps to turn those deliverables into useful results for the good of the future railway system. Associating ‘pre-standardisation’ to the UIC projects work programme is an excellent way to draw benefit from the research workforce and develop totally up to date IRSs and maximising the limited resources available.
We certainly need to extend this principle, and place UIC in a position to better obtain external research outputs. Thanks to its dual identity of technical platform and standard setting organisation, UIC can play a major role in bridging the gap between research and standardisation. Already with Shift2Rail, and certainly even more in the future with Shift2Rail-2, many opportunities exist or will exist for UIC (as well as for all standardisation bodies) to intelligently exploit the project outputs in a seamless and efficient research-to-standard trajectory.

For further information please contact Célia Lévy:


Or Liesbeth de Jong


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Laurent Schmitt, current Chairman of the UIC Standardisation Platform