The UIC Regional Assembly for Europe (RAE) was held on 26 June in Portoroz, Slovenia, at the kind invitation of Mr Dusan Mes, Director-General of Slovenian Railways (SZ), prior to the Executive Board and General Assembly meeting held on 27 June.
This Regional Assembly will henceforth be chaired by Mr Michele Elia, who succeeded Mauro Moretti as the new Chief Executive of Italian State Railways (Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, FSi) and also becomes UIC Vice-Chairman.
In welcoming all participants in Portoroz, the Director-General of Slovenian Railways Mr Dusan Mes reminded the meeting that at an international conference 93 years ago the idea was born to create an international organisation in the shape of UIC. He added that several topics on the agenda of this Regional Assembly in Portoroz would influence the development of European railways and he was proud that discussions on the future of European railways would take place in Slovenia.
At the opening of the meeting, Mr Nikolas Stathopoulos, Secretary General of Transport at the Greek Ministry of Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, and representing the outgoing Greek presidency, was invited to make a preliminary speech in which he mentioned the importance of involving railway operators through UIC in the main projects being developed in Europe and in particular the Horizon 2020 and Shift²Rail strategic projects.
With regard to Shift²Rail, UIC plays an essential role which is now recognised by all partners and stakeholders, consisting on the one hand of developing the railway operating community (ROC) input to the cross functional business needs and system interfaces (inputs and outputs) activity inside the Shift²Rail joint undertaking, and on the other to facilitate the coming together of a number of willing innovator companies of the rail operating community (ROC) seeking to engage in Shift²Rail by means of a consortium known as EUROC.
With regard to the Horizon 2020 1st Call, the meeting was advised of the successes and the disappointments regarding the submissions that had been made. There is now a second phase for these proposals which will mean that a more detailed description is required to be submitted to the European Commission by 28 August. This will require a commitment from colleagues to undertake this detailed activity throughout the summer months.
In terms of development strategy, UIC Director-General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux stressed the importance for UIC to continue leading or coordinating enough technical projects to be able to maintain the current high level of expertise.
It is essential that this technical work is undertaken on the basis of the vision and objectives set out in Challenge 2050 and then further developed in the Rail Technical Strategy, Europe (RTSE). These are really important foundations for the future strategic direction not only for the ROC but also for the work of UIC. The meeting was informed that there is now a piece of work being developed with the members in order to “enable the enablers” from the RTSE and support the development of the 2016 European work programme.