On 28 May 2020 the High-Level Freight Meeting (HLFM) of UIC together with the Community of European Railways (CER), took place via web-conference. CEOs of the rail freight industry met at this meeting to discuss and jointly implement proposals formulated by the CEO Task Force/RFF  . In addition, other participants such as representatives from DG Move and Shift2Rail together with other associations of the sector participated, which is more than welcome since the outreach of rail is substantial.
In their introduction Clemens Först, CEO of Rail Cargo Group (Austria) and president of RFF, François Davenne, Director General UIC and Libor Lochman, Executive Director of CER stressed the positive impact of the collective approach taken by the rail freight sector through the Rail Freight Forward (RFF) Initiative. The Covid-19 crisis has shown more than ever that Rail Freight is the backbone of logistics.
This year’s High-Level Freight meeting agenda focused on bringing the Rail Freight Vision to the next level. While RFF 1.0 continues to focus on agreed priorities and concrete projects, RFF 2.0 identifies, defines and raises awareness on required technologies to enable modal shift to rail. The sector has committed to the goal of 30% Rail Freight modal share by 2030. Whilst initial progress has been made, the roll-out of key technologies is required to reach the aforementioned objective. Taking into account the current environment, the sector needs to think about breakthrough technologies more than ever.
Elizabeth Werner, Director of Land Transport, European Commission, and Carlo Borghini, Executive Director, Shift2Rail (S2R), were invited to exchange and discuss the proposals stemming from the RFF on the setup of the successor S2R, the setup of dedicated European Deployment Management as well as optimisation of governance of Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC).
Elizabeth Werner drew the attention of the participants to the proposal of the EC for a powerful, modern and revamped long-term EU budget boosted by Next Generation EU. “Rail Freight transportation ensures the supply chains working. This has become even more obvious during the Covid-19 crisis. Rail Freight is key to achieve the green deal objectives and a modal shift to cleaner transport modes is needed”, stated the director of Land Transport.
Carlo Borghini appreciates the sector alignment in order to help shaping the content of the next Research & Innovation (R&I) programme of S2R and pointed DAC out as a clear example of bringing R&I to the market.
The rail freight sector is intensively working on a writing a Green Paper as a translation of its requirements. No doubt the new ideas on governance will be an important chapter in the document. Furthermore, the sector and RFF are positioning themselves as a solution oriented, and successfully embracing “cross-sector cooperation”.
Rail Freight Forward will continue the discussion with EC and S2R and will proceed working on the agreed priorities of RFF 2.0. Realising the modal shift with a clear focus on technology deployment, contributing to the Green Deal objectives supported by the necessary EU financing and adequate sector-led governance remains the focus for the years to come. Werner and Borghini confirmed their engagement and commitment to involve RFF as a prime representative of the European Rail Freight sector.