Tuesday 15 September 2009

European Commission’s conference on safety at a European level: “Railway Safety: The Way Forward” (Brussels, 8th September 2009)

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Following the tragic derailment of a freight train in Viareggio (Italy) on 29th June 2009, the European Commission and the European Railway Agency organised a stakeholder conference on rail safety in Brussels on 8th September 2009. The UIC along with other rail associations (CER, EIM, ERFA…) participated and were represented by Jean-Michel Richard, Chair of the Safety Platform, Eric Peetermans, Chair of the Wagon Users Group and Simon Fletcher, UIC Regional Coordinator, Europe. In partnership with a number of key players, there had been a concerted effort behind the scenes throughout the summer in preparing the sector’s position and approach especially in relation to maintenance of rail freight vehicle axles and wheelsets.

The conference was attended by over 200 delegates coming from safety authorities, investigation bodies, transport ministries as well as representatives of the rail sector – operators, manufacturers…

The core messages emerging from the event were:
- the absolute necessity for safety to be developed at a European level and to discourage individual initiatives that could lead to an unbalanced approach to a range of safety-related issues but in particular to maintenance and checks of axles.
- The need to ensure a joined-up system-based approach to safety management; it is through this that costs can be better controlled and more effective measures introduced
- It is important that freight traffic stays on rail and that it remains a competitive mode; individual, national safety measures could in fact lead to seamless cross border rail freight traffic in Europe becoming more difficult

The conference was divided into 4 specific areas:
- Safety at the level of infrastructure and railway operations
- Safety at the level of vehicles
- Safety at the level of goods transported
- Supervision and investigation

The rail operating community was invited to speak in a number of the sessions with Mauro Moretti, Vice Chair of UIC Europe and chairman of FS (Italy) speaking in the first session. In the second session, CER’s Libor Lochman presented a joint CER-UIP-ERFA-UIC proposal which addresses a number of general issues but also outlines 11 detailed measures in respect to limiting the risk of broken axles.
Further presentations were made by ERFA and UNIFE.

The European Commission and the ERA greatly appreciated the fact that the sector had presented a coordinated and indeed consolidated view. An action plan has been drawn up by the ERA which sets out a number of short and longer term measures that will be developed by a special task force established to explore all the issues. The ERA is placing great importance in the work of this task force as it will be personally chaired by the ERA’s Head of Safety, Anders Lundstrom. The task force will also take the sector’s 11-point plan into account.

In drawing the event to a close, EU Vice President and Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani set out the core resolutions that the event had concluded:

- Any measures introduced must be done at a European level
- The existing regulatory framework must be fully implemented by all Member States; there are some still very behind and implementation must be accelerated
- The action plan prepared by the ERA and to which the sector actively contributed shall be followed; the task force shall be set up activated immediately
- A time/mileage based approach to vehicle maintenance shall be studied and applied
- The mandatory certification of Entities in Charge of Maintenance (ECM) shall be accelerated
- The ERA’s role will be enhanced. This will include:
o involvement in vehicle certification,
o auditing of NSAs,
o on-site inspection and
o participation in accident investigations
The EC will study how this modified framework shall be developed and the timescales for implementation
- A European-wide platform for the real-time exchange of data related to wagon operation/maintenance and the transportation of dangerous goods should be developed

Copies of the various documents mentioned in this article will be placed on the UIC website within the safety pages.

For more information please contact Simon Fletcher, Regional Coordinator – Europe: fletcher@uic.org

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© European Communities, 2009 | Brussels - Berlaymont(© European Communities, 2009 | Brussels - Berlaymont
© European Communities, 2009 | Brussels - Berlaymont from left to right: Altero Matteoli, Italian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Antonio Tajani and Marcel Verslype, Executive Director of the European Railway Agency (ERA)