From 18 – 19 April 2012, the International Strategic Rail Forum prepared by UNIFE (the Union of European Railway Industries), in cooperation with the National Transport Authority of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi. The event was attended by European railway authorities, together with the representative authorities of the Gulf region cooperating within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and railway operators from the Middle-Eastern region. The event was led by Mr Philippe Citroën, Director-General of UNIFE, and UIC was represented by Mr Emilio Maestrini, Director of the Rail System Department at UIC HQ.
Participants presented the ambitious investment plans for railway developments in the Gulf region and described the organisation of authorities within the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Particular sessions were dedicated to “Railway industry structures, legislations and regulations”, “Elaborating railway standards for the Gulf region”, “A coherent approach to rail freight operations – interoperability”, and “Safety Management”.
During this forum particular emphasis was placed on the issue “Elaborating railway standards for the Gulf Region – which standards for which kind of traffic and why?” In this context Mr Emilio Maestrini presented participants with the topic “UIC and the development of rail standards”. Consequently, the authorities of the Gulf region, in particular the National Railway Authority of UAE, expressed a keen interest in the issue of railway standards, which they will need in particular for their international tenders. In this context it is important to recall that the NTA of the United Arab Emirates signed a memorandum of understanding with UNIFE and UIC in September 2010, with the objective of exchanging information and best practice on a series of issues including standards.
UNIFE made a proposal to the Gulf authorities to draw benefit from the European platforms and experiences in the issues of ERTMS (train control) and rolling stock.
UIC as the association of railway companies suggested increased cooperation with authorities of the GCC region. The authorities asked how they might activate their common participation in UIC, while UIC will make efforts to increasingly meet the needs and expectations of members in the Middle-Eastern region.
As an overview, a total of 20,000 kilometres of railway lines is set be completed by 2020.