Tuesday 2 November 2021

Third TopRail RailtoLand Forum held online on 26 October

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The third TopRail Forum was held online on 26 October in cooperation with the RailtoLand Erasmus + European project consortium. The theme of the forum was ‘Railway and tourism: a cultural perspective’.

The key issue during this forum was the landscape as a tourist resource, which is especially relevant to the development of entrepreneurial actions in the railway system and improvement of the traveller experience. When travelling by rail, customers are attracted by natural beauty, as well as cultural and historical assets such as tunnels and bridges. It is the combination of the uniqueness of the landscapes, the beauty of the train carriages and the onboard experience that creates an extraordinary experience for travellers.

The forum hosted high-level representatives and experts from various international organisations, including representatives from Spain, France, the Netherlands, Iran, Russia and the United Kingdom, as well as international associations such as FEDECRAIL, who shared their experience and knowledge in the field of railway tourism.

The forum was opened with a welcome speech by Carles Casas Esplugas, Director of Strategic & Prospective Planning at FGC and TopRail chairman, and concluded with a round table on the theme of ‘Landscape as a resource for railway tourism’ moderated by Dr Nacima Baron, Université Gustave Eiffel, ENPC.

The topics discussed included:

  • How can we make the train inviting for tourism? – Mark van Hagen, NS
  • Experience, behaviour and cognition programme – Simone Morgagni, SNCF
  • International and tourism trains project – Bahram Zarghami, RAI
  • Trains as a tour guide for Russian landscapes (discover the country from the train window) – Denis Davydov, RZD
  • Cruise train trips: trans-Siberian railway by ’Imperial Russia’ train – Olga Nikulina, RZD Tour
  • The role of modern and heritage rail as part of sustainable tourism in the modern destination marketing strategy – Jaap Nieweg, FEDECRAIL
  • Rail tourism cooperation in Cornwall – Mael Garrec, Cornwall County Council

Dr Clara Zamorano, in coordination with Dr Ana Berrocal of the RailtoLand project, presented the project, which is a collective platform for ideas on innovative challenges for communicating European cultural landscapes by train. The project focuses not only on innovation, but also on education and learning activities with students, professors and experts. More information on this project is available at https://railtoland.eu/.

The winner of the ‘My Secret Rail Spots’ TopRail photo contest was announced at the beginning of the forum. Bart Troncquo, Operations Officer FBMZ-FOVR at Infrabel, kindly shared his inspiration for the photo of a modern national and international railway station designed by the famous architect Santiago Calatrava and located in Liège-Guillemins, Belgium.

During his opening remarks, Carles Casas Esplugas highlighted that rail is not just a business, but that it also includes emotions and sentiments which contribute to a unique experience for customers. He added that uniqueness, emotions and sustainability are the three elements common to rail tourism services.
During his presentation, Mark van Hagen noted that the main goal is ultimately to make the customer happy and give them a reason to travel.
This idea was reinforced by Simone Morgagni. While talking about the experience, behaviour and cognition programme, he stressed that new technologies and innovative methods have the potential to make railway landscapes fully accessible and open to everyone.
Bahram Zarghami introduced the project on international and tourist trains in Iran, focusing on the themed trains and tourism attractions that can be visited by train in Iran. He announced that the Trans-Iranian Railways had been added to UNESCO’s list of heritage sites in September 2021.
Denis Davydov of RZD gave a presentation on railway tourism in Russia, focusing on flagship projects such as the ‘Caucasian Pearl’, ’Sochi’, ‘Moscow-Rostov-on-Don-Elista-Moscow’, ’Ruskealian Express’ and ‘Meteor’ trains, as well as the ‘Baikal Fairy Tale’ multimodal tour. This was followed by a presentation by Olga Nikulina, representing RZD Tour, who described the ’Imperial Russia’ cruise train running on the trans-Siberian Railway and in the Arctic Circle.
During his presentation, Jaap Nieweg told a story about the role of modern and heritage rail as part of sustainable tourism in modern destination marketing strategies, which can be a useful asset in the recovery from losses suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Finally, Mael Garrec shared some highlights from the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, which connects people with jobs, leisure and retail opportunities as well as improving the mental and physical health of passengers by promoting active lifestyles and access to green and blue spaces.
Dr Nacima Baron closed the event by sharing some of the conclusions and highlighting the main inputs presented during the second part of the forum. She highlighted that railway tourism requires cooperation and coordination between different entities. There is a need for railway cultural tourism to seize the opportunity opened up during the Covid-19 crisis to change the tourism system and move in the direction of qualitative tourism, which means domestic and thematic tourism.
The event offered an opportunity to compare best practices in the rail sector throughout the world and was aimed at strengthening cooperation among members and partners.

If you missed the opportunity to attend the meeting, you are invited to participate in the forum via Rail Event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ougJjjRhD2E

For further information, please visit
the TopRail website https://toprail.org/
the RailtoLand website https://railtoland.eu/

Should you have any questions, please contact Vanessa Pérez, Senior Advisor, Passenger Department, at perez@uic.org

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