On 20th November, the UIC participated to the 45th Latin-American Rail Association (ALAF) General Assembly and technical seminar on rail developments and regulations hosted by Incofer, the Costa Rican Railways, in San José, Costa Rica. Since 1964, ALAF has brought together railway undertakings, infrastructure managers as well as representatives from Ministries of transport amongst other rail related companies from over 20 countries to develop railway cooperation and development.
This event gave the opportunity to current ALAF Secretary General Jaime Valencia from Bolivian Railways (FO) to take stock on his 2 year mandate, welcome 12 new members, amongst them the National Mexican Rail Association (AMF) and the Brazilian National Freight Transport Association (ANTF) illustrating the continuous ALAF growth and development in Central and South America. “21st century in Latin America, said Jaime Valencia, should put forward rail transport as a valuable response for an economic, sustainable and operational mobility, especially in the context of Latin American economic development”, referring to the first high speed line project from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo in Brazil. Additionally, Mr Valencia announced the election of Miguel Carabaguíaz, president of Costa Rican railways, as new ALAF Secretary General with effect from 15th January 2010.
The technical seminar was divided into three sessions covering regulation aspects, rail urban transport and Central American projects. The UIC was invited to introduce the seminar on safety issues, particularly the International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) due to take place, next June, in more than 35 countries across 5 continents.
Ilyas Daoud, Project coordinator for ILCAD introduced the UIC and its safety platform to ALAF members. He highlighted the need to insist on safety and security in the development of rail operations in Latin America. Therefore, he distributed an invitation to attend and participate to the International Rail Safety Conferences (IRSC), where UIC is well involved, to exchange good practices and learn experiences on issues affecting the whole rail community. He presented the ILCAD project which was enthusiastically welcomed by ALAF secretariat and its members, some of them being strongly affected by misbehaviours at and around level crossings especially in Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala and Mexico.
A round table was set up to discuss the key aspect of rail regulation and its state of play in Latin American countries. Currently two opposing views exist in Latin America: one influenced by the European model (European Railway Agency, competent national authorities regulating etc.) adapted in countries such as Argentina or Bolivia (ATIT). But also another one advocating a total deregulation of the sector based on the U.S. model and particularly present in Mexico. A large number of countries are still defining a model according to these 2 concepts to match with the context and legal culture. ALAF insisted on the need to disseminate the information available to help countries and rail sector to define their best option and will organise follow-up meetings on this topic.
Regarding urban and inter-urban transport, RENFE and Feve (Spain) made various presentations on its development (tram and/or train/trams) in Japan, Australia and Europe: particularly in a great number of Spanish cities. This system already exists in Argentina, but needs to be developed and extended to other Latin American metropolis. Many questions and issues brought on the financing aspect of such projects and the role of public bodies and authorities in this regard.
The last part of the event was largely dedicated to the “MesoAmerica” project that aims at connecting more than five Central American countries (from Guatemala to Panama). The core objective is to develop and foster transport infrastructure including railways. This project should involve various funding sources including the participation of the Inter-American Development Bank (BID). The BID presented the next steps (assessments, studies, contracts…) and agreed with ALAF that a specific workshop would be organised in the coming weeks between the railways and BID to strengthen the rail perspective of “MesoAmerica”.
UIC participation at the ALAF General Assembly was seen as a strong signal to strengthen technical collaboration and undertake further joint projects like the International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD). ALAF will indeed organise in March 2010, a training seminar on rail transportation (operations and interface between key actors) in Guatemala City, Guatemala. UIC will be invited to take part and provide input to this technical seminar.
Additionally, and due to its development, ALAF is currently in the process of revising its status and will finalise them at an Extraordinary Assembly due to take place next June 2010 at ALAF headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina.