Information published on 25 April 2012 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 288.

4th edition of the Transport Research Arena event

From 23 – 26 April 2012, Athens is hosting the 4th edition of the Transport Research Arena event. After Göteborg in 2006, Ljubjana in 2008 and Brussels in 2010, the Greek capital has brought together over 1,000 experts, interested parties (industry, operators, research centres etc. …) and policy makers to exchange their knowledge regarding innovation, research and development in the transport sector. UIC is representing the railway sector at the invitation of the EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Mrs Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. The railway sector is represented for the first time at this TRA conference.

For this 4th edition, “For a greener, safer and smarter surface transport for Europe” and for the first time, all surface transport modes were invited: road, rail and waterborne. For this first participation in this biannual event, UIC, UNIFE and the European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC) are representing the rail operating community and the rail industry.

During the opening ceremony, Mrs Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research and Innovation of the European Commission, welcomed the attendance of all transport modes to TRA 2012 and highlighted “the importance of a green and sustainable European transport.” Making references to Thomas Edison’s innovations, she pointed out the importance of a less polluting public transport for which the European Commission is ready to invest in future research projects, especially through the launch in 2014 of the “Horizon 2020” programme. Through a video message, Vice-President Siim Kallas insisted on the need to develop better cooperation between the different transport modes in order to improve the connection between land and waterborne transport systems to the benefit of a safe journey experience for all travellers in Europe.

Professor Andrew McNaughton, Chairman of ERRAC, underlined the important changes currently occurring in the transportation sector: “Common issues must be considered across all the modes regarding capacity, energy and affordability in the public transport. The future means cooperation between the different modes to give Europe a passenger and freight transport that needs to grow. Friendly transport systems personalising the mass transport that is carrying millions of people and tonnes of freight is a challenging way for the future. Personalising transport is to look and feel like private transport for everybody so each individual user finds it easy and intuitive to choose rail. The idea is to design our system around humans (operators, customers, maintenance staff...) and not to expect the world to be designed around us.”

Mr Loubinoux was invited to the first round table on EU 2020 objectives on transport innovation, in the presence of Mr András Siegler (Transport Director in DG Research and Innovation) Mrs Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Mr Nevio Di Giusto (President & CEO of FIAT Research Centre) and Mr Jan Hendrik Dronkers (Director General for Public Works and Water Management of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure), and delivered the following speech on behalf of the railway community:

Commissioner, Chairman, dear colleagues and friends, ladies and gentlemen,

Let me begin by expressing my pleasure, as Director-General of the International Union of Railways, to be present with you today at this conference on European research in transportation. I want to thank the European Commission and especially the Directorate-Generals of Research Transport and Innovation for supporting this event and I would also like to thank the Greek authorities who have ensured the smooth organisation despite this difficult time in your country.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis which is affecting each European Member State. Nevertheless, all this should not be a source of decline in accepting the challenge of innovation. This climate must instead be an opportunity to find new ways to live, work and, as it is at the heart of this conference, to travel! In this extremely unfavourable context, the ability for business to be innovative appears like a gamble. But there is a maxim that says: “you have to invest your way out of an economic crisis” and we have to ensure that our investment is on the right innovative issues. We are living in a time when it seems to me that the notions of economies take on a new meaning: it is becoming increasingly difficult to rely on tax euros to fund large projects but nevertheless the EU has set itself very ambitious goals on environmental impact. Besides, consumers are becoming more and more demanding about reactivity and reliability of solutions to their needs.

Europe possesses the means to meet such challenges. The large number of participants at this conference shows the potential of the European Union to seek and collaboratively develop solutions for transport tomorrow. This conference is an excellent demonstration of this collaboration, bringing together all the modes of European surface transport and we are delighted that rail is represented for the first time this year. It won’t be last.

Innovation is crucial to system development and we need to use research to change our railway, and change it fast enough to create a rail system both today and in 40 years’ time. But we need to get on with it now because it is hard work changing a railway with a heritage as long as ours and with assets that have necessary long life cycles such as trains and infrastructure.

According to the 2011 EU White Paper, the rail sector, with its green credentials and capacity, can be the backbone of Europe’s new mobility requirements. Despite significant progresses, the rail sector must also do many more things to develop attractiveness to customers – passenger and freight; and this is an interactive process of short and medium term improvements. Much can be achieved through research, technology and innovation and we need to collectively develop this so as to be effective.

That is of course much easier said than achieved especially as we have a largely national-based business model being challenged by a largely European vision.

Cooperation between all rail stakeholders is crucial for the development of railways in the future. Our colleagues in the manufacturing companies have put forward a proposal to establish a Joint Undertaking known as “SHIFT2Rail”. On behalf of the Rail Operating Community, we are collaborating with UNIFE to ensure that the very best model is developed for the greater good of all rail stakeholders. You will learn more about this initiative as this conference progresses.

Innovative research and development is a core activity of the UIC, with and on behalf of our members: innovation in capacity, safety, energy efficiency, customer services to name but a few.

Supporting the efforts of our members through dissemination of the results of research projects we conduct internally or from leading rail research institutes, benchmarking, actively carrying out development and innovation, as well as developing common standards, are fundamental tasks of the UIC organisation.

At a European level, UIC’s research activity is coordinated by our Research Coordination Group. Currently, we are involved in 23 EU-funded projects which is a recognition of our capacity to be a reliable partner for the European Commission and of the added value that we can bring technically in this field.

We are also very actively involved in the work of the European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC). Most of the major rail stakeholders include ERRAC, manufacturers, operators, infrastructure managers, the European Commission, EU Member States, academics and rail users’ groups.

Since 2009, ERRAC has carried out rail research mapping project called “ERRAC ROADMAP”, describing the necessary research needed to support the development of railways and it is a result of this that ERRAC has recently published its “Rail Route 2050” document that sets out a series of suggested research initiatives until 2050.

With the UIC being in fact the only global association of rail operators, it is important that lessons are transferred around the world. The International Rail Research Board is the body that steers this essential network and is currently chaired by Russia. IRRB is setting up a Rail Research Portal providing all stakeholders worldwide with a public database of projects, their deliverables and their evaluation, this portal represents a unique opportunity to strengthen the rail research community and think globally of the future of railways. For the 1st Global Innovation Awards – also an initiative of UIC and IRRB and which aims to fully address all the technical subjects representing the rail system – we are inviting all researchers in the rail sector to propose their projects and especially those that have demonstrated their business-added-value. The official award ceremony will be held in Paris on the occasion of the UIC General Assembly in December 2012, concluding our association’s 90th anniversary year.

Rail in Europe can play a catalytic role in delivering an integrated, sustainable, and efficient mobility network. The mobility of people and goods is a vital aspect for our society and economy. It is also a matter of considerable importance to the European Union and its Member States. The common transport policy must aim at achieving a sufficient sustainable mobility, which should be adequate to the needs created by the economic growth and vice versa.

Now, to design our future railway we must also consider what people will expect of a transport system in the future.

The rail sector is very aware of its impact on citizens and the environment. Rail has already achieved considerable gains in reducing noise as well as greenhouse gas emissions and is correctly perceived as being very environmentally-friendly. Rail has the distinct advantage of already providing the most significant amount of transport powered by sustainable energy sources. It is also a very safe form of land transportation and it is working with all key stakeholders to ensure not only the security of passengers, goods and system infrastructure but also swift passage across state borders.

Furthermore the volume of traffic is expected to increase in the future and the existing European network is already working to its maximum capacity. In order to meet its true potential and contribute fully to the economic and social prosperity of Europe with green, efficient and integrated whole journey solutions for transport users, there is an urgent need for action to increase the capacity and interoperability of railway networks that can then help effective modal shift towards rail. Railway transportation will also need to develop its attractiveness and competitiveness to meet that potential.

Thus, innovating and harmonising products and technologies are a necessity for the rail market to deploy all its potential, create new standards and to deliver cost effective services for a seamless rail journey.

Rail transport is a future-oriented global industry and interlinked with the other modes of the global transport system. From a rail perspective, Europe is one of the leading regions of the world with rail being a key component of the transport network in and between each country. Therefore, it is necessary that all players agree to significant efforts in the field of research –not just for research itself, but to allow real progress in the management and evolution of the train and its infrastructure in the coming years. Time is running out and it is absolutely necessary to invest now for what will be the transportation of tomorrow.

In addition, it is crucial in a context where rail can no longer be identified just at a national level, but as the European transport mode in the future, that there is the proper budget to match research ambitions.

It is also necessary that rail works together with all the other transport modes. Europe needs more inter-mobility to provide more comfort and efficiency to European consumers, both in passenger and freight transport. For instance, links between airports, ports and the main European cities through rail is one of our biggest challenges to come.

Equally, rail must be more aware of customer expectations of door-to-door service, especially regarding information during their journey.

So, how to create competitive solutions for tomorrow’s shorter distance, regional and urban mobility travel; how to reduce our energy use; how to truly embrace information technology; how to automate and yet design our system around the human operators who are vital to system operation; how to do all this at an affordable price through the modular railway. So there are some challenges. This is a research-driven, customer-led future; to make rail the transport system of the 21st century. Complementing this is of course the legislation pillar necessary to provide fair market conditions.

Ladies and gentlemen, our grandfathers invented an advanced transport system based on the highly efficient steel wheel on steel rail and it will meet the needs of our grandchildren if we are good enough and if we move fast enough.

Let me conclude by telling you once more of our great pleasure in being represented today for the first time at this conference. In 2014, the next TRA conference will be held in Paris which is also home to UIC and we will be very happy to strongly support the organisation of this event as the main association representing the rail sector.

Thank you very much for your attention.