Participants from the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Ukraine, France, Germany, the Netherlands and UIC took part in the 3rd conference of the International Railway History Association (IRHA-AIHC) held in Bratislava, Slovakia, from 24 to 26 September 2009. The conference was supported by UIC, the Slovak railway companies ZSR, ZSSK and ZSSK Cargo, and SNCF, with the patronage of H.E. Henry Cuny, French Ambassador to the Slovak Republic.
The conference theme was “Railways in Transition – Eastern European Railways – Past, Present and Future in the 20th and 21st Centuries” and the presentations were structured according to the four main sub-themes:
Historical overview of railways in Eastern European countries,
Under Russian Protection,
After the Fall of the Iron Curtain: Changes, Problems, Modernisation,
Heritage and its Use.
From the outset, several speakers stressed that it was essential to be aware of the historical background and respect the heritage of railway companies to prepare a sound future for the railways of the Eastern European region. Speakers at the opening session of the conference were Dusan Svantner, State Secretary, Slovak Ministry of Transport, Henry Cuny, Ambassador of France to Slovakia, Henry Jacolin, Former Ambassador, Chairman of the International Railway History Association, Stefan Hlinka, Director General of Slovak Railways ZSR and Michel Veres, Director of Strategy and International relations for ZSSK.
Paul Véron, IRHA Vice Chairman and UIC Director of Communications, highlighted in his presentation the key role played by UIC from 1945 to the 90s in maintaining close cooperation between Western and Eastern European railways in the professional field and creating a harmonised basis for the modernisation of railways after European reunification. Dr. Ralf Roth, professor at the University of Frankfurt am Main, presented the conference programme, which included a visit to the Transport Museum in Bratislava.
The IRHA Association was founded in 2002 as a joint initiative by railways, universities, scientific societies, railway and transport museums and cultural institutions as well as people interested in safeguarding the historical and cultural heritage of rail transport.