The biggest rail research and innovation programme ever seen in Europe is very much nearer to reality; the regulation has been passed by the European Parliament and has now entered the EU’s statute books. The European Commission (COM) has published a first draft of the Shift²Rail Master Plan and an interim Director, Christos Economou, a Commission Officer, has been appointed. The search for a permanent Director was published in the OJ at the end of July.
Meanwhile, the group of UIC members wishing to collaborate and undertake an active engagement in Shift²Rail has formed itself into a consortium called EUROC. This is widely agreed as being the best opportunity for companies (SMEs and some others) with limited resources to pool together and actively engage in Shift²Rail and therefore be a player in innovating the future European rail system.
This collaborative approach is by far the most effective solution by which to identify the best customer-oriented solutions and get a really high value future for an attractive rail sector that is able to compete with other modes.
Shift²Rail is an initiative that has been developed by its Founders, led by UNIFE – the body representing the suppliers and manufacturers. With an ambitious work programme that has a planned budget that runs to around 900 million Euros and being a significant part of the EU Horizon 2020 programme, the programme will encompass research, innovation and demonstration activities in many aspects of the rail system.
The UIC team is engaging in a number of areas to support this breakthrough research and innovation programme. This includes facilitating the development of EUROC, involvement in the Shift²Rail System Group (inputs and outputs to the programme), continuing with the important underpinning of the work of ERRAC, which itself has a key advisory role to the Shift²Rail governance and also through the continued identification of activities in key areas that will support the development of the future European railway system through the work of the Research and Innovation Coordination Group (RICG).
Shift²Rail has as its main objectives, capacity enhancement of the European rail system to cope with increased user demand, increasing the reliability and quality of rail services and significantly reducing the life cycle and maintenance costs of the overall system. These are of course fundamental components of the business model of the rail operating community (ROC) and it is therefore highly important that as many ROC stakeholders play as influential a role as possible in this venture.
Ensuring that future development of the European rail system is undertaken according to the ROC business model is highly important as part of rail competition with other transport modes such as road and aviation.
The EUROC consortium is currently developing a detailed work programme, significantly influenced by the Challenge 2050 and RTSE documents (“Challenge 2050” is available at: http://www.uic.org/IMG/pdf/challenge2050.pdf and Rail Technical Strategy Europe (RTSE) at: http://www.uic.org/IMG/pdf/rail_technical_strategy_february_2014.pdf) but also taking cognisance of the draft Master Plan that the COM have published. This will form part of the EUROC submission to become an Associate Member of Shift²Rail. That process has not yet started but it is understood that the COM will launch the call early in September.
EUROC is an inclusive group of willing innovators to which it is still possible for companies not yet engaged to do so. The more there are involved, the stronger the ROC influence will be and of course it will be possible to spread the investment and gain from the outcomes from the wide range of development that will emerge from the Shift²Rail work programme.
EUROC is also very well advanced in defining the detailed “rules” for the way it will work together. This is being developed into a Consortium Agreement that will of necessity be developed amongst the companies that have agreed to engage in this manner.
There is still a last minute opportunity for any UIC European member not yet decided but who might be thinking about getting involved, to declare their intentions NOW. Get in touch with Simon Fletcher (see below) and see how you can get involved but time really is short now and end of August will be a significant watershed in this development.
If you have any questions about the initiative or the EUROC consortium, then get in touch with UIC Europe Coordinator, Simon Fletcher (email@example.com) who will be able to provide you with the latest situation.
Alternatively, please feel free to contact the following who will also be delighted to advise you on why they see involvement in Shift²Rail as an essential part of the development of not only their business but the development of rail at a European level:
- Mark TOPAL – ÖBB: Mark.Topal-Goekceli@oebb.at
- José Carlos CLEMENTE – REFER: firstname.lastname@example.org