Participants were welcomed by HLFM Chairman Clemens Först (CEO of RCG), Jean-Pierre Loubinoux and Libor Lochmann. Mr Loubinoux said that UIC was very pleased to contribute to the preparation of the strategic vision discussed at the meeting.
“Positioning rail as the backbone of international freight mobility is the work and message that UIC is delivering worldwide, in particular through the work on corridors. To reinforce the message, UIC capitalises on partnerships, in particular with sustainable agencies and UN COP programmes”, he explained. He stressed that UIC provides a solid basis in Europe for a strong political message to be carried by the CER.
In addition to the strategic vision, Mr Loubinoux highlighted UIC’s technical activities, which formed the basis for the day’s discussions: KPIs, contingency planning and digitalisation for rail freight, supported by the Raildata special group. Mr Loubinoux concluded by inviting all participants to attend the Global Rail Freight Conference, which will take place from 26 to 28 June in the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa.
The focus of this year’s HLFM was a discussion on a vision for rail freight. To support this discussion, the freight CEO taskforce, under the leadership of Clemens Först, had commissioned OakTree Management Consultants to develop a storyline around the following strategic themes:
- Railway operators should offer rail products that deliver the highest possible quality and value for money
- Infrastructure managers and regulators should ensure that running trains through Europe is as “easy” as running trucks
- Policymakers should encourage customers to shift to rail, taking into account the external costs of rail and trucks
- The rail sector should reinvent itself at the same pace as the road haulage sector
The presentation delivered by Oliver Martin, OakTree, was well received by the CEO. The dynamic and fruitful discussion that followed confirmed rail operators’ strong drive to develop rail freight and to increase current market share beyond a stagnating 18%. The discussion also identified coordinated actions to be integrated into the work programmes of the associations involved (UIC and CER) and implemented by each company individually, working with politicians, infrastructure managers and other relevant stakeholders.
This vision was then presented by Clemens Först to representatives from the European Shippers Council who joined the meeting for the second year in a row. The ensuing discussion highlighted how the work undertaken in the context of the strategic vision, supported by the technical work, addressed the common priority topics:
- Simplify the use of rail transport and provide reliable information on transport progress, estimated time of arrival (ETA) and disruptions
- Improve reliability and provide KPIs for individual routes, RUs and types of traffic (single wagon, block trains or intermodal trains)
- Include the last mile in the overall door-to-door operation
- Other common challenges include contingency planning (Rastatt) and noise (wagon retrofitting)
Before welcoming Ms Elizabeth Werner, Director of Land Transport at the European Commission, both railway representatives and shippers agreed to take a joint approach to a number of issues key to improving the market attractiveness of rail freight and to meet on a regular basis to review progress.
Ms Werner addressed the audience after being presented with the key elements of the strategic vision for freight. She stressed the importance of the work carried out by the sector, particularly in the context of the 11 sector statement priorities. She presented the Commission and Agency’s Issue Log initiative, the purpose of which is to support the sector to implement quick wins in the domains of braking sheets, train composition and data exchange. Ms Werner also reiterated the Commission’s wish to launch pilots to test interoperability improvements in the context of driver language. These are issues that already feature as priority topics in UIC’s three-year work programme, specifically in the ECCO and Xborder projects and in the Raildata portfolio of applications.
The next HLFM will be held on 15 and 16 May in Paris, hosted by Jean-Pierre Loubinoux.