Thursday 26 July 2012
High Speed Rail / UIC World Congress

8th UIC World Congress on High Speed Rail organised and hosted by the American Association of Public Transportation (APTA) together with UIC:

Successful and historic “meeting point” for all stakeholders involved in high speed rail

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  • Political decision-makers, dignitaries and high-level representatives from the international rail community attended this successful 8th edition: 1,000 participants from all over the world including Ministers, Ambassadors, CEOs and Directors from railway companies, experts and students from 37 countries
  • UIC HIGHSPEED 2012 was organised around two major round tables and parallel sessions dedicated to topics directly connected with high speed rail development
  • The 9th UIC World Congress on High Speed Rail is to be held in June 2015 in Japan

The 8th UIC World Congress on High Speed Rail, jointly organised by UIC and the American Association of Public Transportation (APTA), was held from 11 – 13 July in Philadelphia, PA, USA.
The theme of this 8th edition, bringing together three Ministers, 32 CEOs and Directors from railway companies worldwide, international organisations such as the World Bank, 1,000 congress delegates from 37 countries, 2,700 visitors, 190 speakers participating in the opening session, two round tables and 25 parallel sessions including three special sessions for high speed corridors around the world, 80 exhibitors from 12 countries and 13 participants in the students’ programme, was:

“High speed rail: connecting people, building sustainable prosperity”

The high attendance, around 1,000 high speed rail professionals in total, from all continents, has demonstrated among others the influence of high speed rail experts on decision-makers.

During the opening session, UIC Director-General Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux said: “The congress is a unique platform. All over the world, high speed rail means economic development, competitiveness and growth; less congestion; less dependence on foreign energy resources; and fewer casualties on the roads. Conference participants over the next three days will see the value and benefits of high speed rail and practical ways to implement it.”

He insisted on the historic moment for high speed rail, following the California vote held on 6 July 2012, just before the opening of the 8th World Congress on High Speed Rail held for the first time in North America: “I truly hope this conference will become a milestone in the history of high speed rail.” He added: “The decision made on 6 July was symbolic in its timing [of the 8th World Congress on High Speed Rail convening in Philadelphia] – so, are we [UIC] a lucky charm?” Jean-Pierre Loubinoux added that the “Washington Day” organised the day before the opening of the Congress presented a “unique opportunity to have all prominent actors in high speed rail gathered all in one row [at the meeting].”

Michael Melaniphy, President and CEO of APTA, said that the United States “must remain economically competitive and high speed rail is an economically viable way to achieve it. The US continues to make incremental progress but much remains to be done.”

UIC Chairman Yoshio Ishida underlined the many benefits of high speed rail, saying: “In all the countries where high speed rail is operating today, much energy is saved and it provides convenience to those who live along these lines.”

Gary C. Thomas, APTA Chairman said: “There was criticism of President Lincoln when he said the United States needed a transcontinental railroad.” “Critics called the proposed New York/New Jersey tunnel financially and technologically impossible to build.” “Today, these ventures stand as examples of America’s success, showing how transportation projects make our daily life possible and keep our economy moving.” “I predict the very same will happen with high speed rail.”
Gary C. Thomas cited a recent APTA survey that showed that 62% of Americans likely to use high speed rail, with more than half of them very likely. The figure soars to 74% for US residents age 18-24.

Ray LaHood, US Secretary of Transportation, underlined the extraordinary friendship of all the participants and players of the development of high speed rail ready to share their own expertise in a very positive atmosphere.

Following the address of the keynote speakers, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux gave the floor to several speakers in order to make a “worldwide tour” of high speed rail.

Concerning Japan, Osamu Yoshida, Senior Vice-Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan, said he “feels a sense of destiny arising from the conference that is being held in the United States.” He added he was looking forward, over the course of the congress, to learning from his fellow attendees and exchanging information.

Concerning Chinese developments, Huawu He, Chief Engineer and Chinese Minister of Railways, said that “in the next 10 years, China will be focusing on technology and innovation. The Chinese government knows the importance of developing railways.”

As far as Turkey is concerned, Süleyman Karaman, President of Turkish Railways (TCDD), mentioned that the Turkish government has invested $15 billion in the development of high speed rail since 2003.

As for Russia’s developments in high speed rail, Vladimir Yakunin, President of Russian Railways (RZD), cited the need for partnerships, saying it is critical to collaborate with colleagues who already have experience in this field. He said: “More than money or technology, the barrier to implementing high speed rail in America is a problem of mentality.” He added: “Why spend money on rail when so many other travel options are available.” “A possible answer to that is that it is not just a means of transportation, it’s also a quality of life.” He continued: “For us in Russia, the term “mobility” is not abstract. To fund high-speed rail was a Russian decision. What will the American decision be? It depends on you. Because, when you start a project, you need above all else a political vision and a political will.”

Concerning Italy, Mauro Moretti, CEO of Italian Railways (FS), Vice-Chairman of UIC and Chairman of CER, predicted that European high speed rail ridership would triple by 2030 and then underlined the imperative need for public-private partnerships (PPP) for success.

Marcel Verslype, Executive Director of the European Railway Agency, underlined the competitive aspect of high speed rail, saying that one of its main characteristics in Europe is that it is open and transparent and favours competition.

From a Belgian point of view, Marc Descheemaecker, CEO of Belgium Railways (SNCB), underlined that “mobility is everything.” “Brussels is home to many international organisations and it needs to stay competitive or these companies will leave. The nation’s many ports necessitate good mobility, which high speed rail has helped to achieve.” He added: “With high speed’s possible to have breakfast in Paris, lunch in Amsterdam and dinner in London.”

As far as France is concerned, Guillaume Pepy, President of French Railways (SNCF), cited three major achievements in the 30 years of high speed rail operations in France: world speed record broken in 2007; safety – serving more than two billion passengers without a single casualty in France” – and capacity. He added “France has only one third of the European high speed rail network, yet has captured half of the European market.” He concluded by adding that high speed rail should not focus just on “going from Station 1 to Station 2, but instead must become a sustainable alternative to car travel.”

Jean-Pierre Loubinoux ended the opening session by concluding this tour of high speed testimony and experience by saying “Where there’s a will, there’s a (rail)way.” This sentence, which stands for a perfect catch-balloon, could sum up the spirit of this 8th World Congress on High speed Rail.

Messages delivered during the UIC World Congress

Many American politicians consider that high speed rail is the legacy they should leave to the next generations as they now benefit from the heritage of the interstate highway network.

During the opening session US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said: “It’s historical time to be here in the USA. It’s an exciting moment to spotlight high speed rail. It’s happening right now (it’s not a dream), all over the world and it has been for decades.” He added “America has always been a nation of dreamers and builders. “What we are doing is what other generations have done for us.” He continued “High speed rail is not a pipe dream... it has come to America. The train has left the station.”

High speed rail is no longer a new-born system but a mature one having already transported twice the number of the earth’s dwellers without injuring anybody.

Guillaume Pepy, President of French Railways (SNCF), reminded participants that even in countries where high speed rail is advanced, it’s necessary to re-invent the high speed service. As far as he’s concerned he underlined three questions that are worth answering about high speed rail: the investments (how can we build the future high speed networks?), the competition (need to welcome other competitors or players in the market) and the customers’ needs and services (progress through more digital services, intermodal facilities and seamless transport).

Most of the Congress participants think that the current economical and financial crisis will slow down the development of the high speed network worldwide.

Today’s stringency affects the funding of high speed projects. Nevertheless, the tour around the world made during the opening ceremony has highlighted many ongoing projects both in countries where high speed rail is long established (such as Japan, France,...) or just starting (such as Morocco, Saudi Arabia, ...). In addition, just before the Congress the Californian Senate gave the green light for the financing of the first stage of a high speed line. This may spark a rapid blooming of HSR in the United States. Michael Melaniphy, APTA CEO and President cited the recent breakthrough in California, where the State Senate passed a budget measure in favour of high speed rail to reaffirm its commitment to the technology. “This vote will contribute to a balanced transportation system, and we are thrilled it all came together right before you arrived for this Congress.” He continued: “Your presence here in the United States – you, who are the world experts – will help us take our message and make it understood by those in Washington.”

During the first round table organised during the Congress, titled “How to deliver a High Speed Rail project in today’s economic context?” and moderated by UIC Director-General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, several speakers underlined the need to educate the stakeholders of the high speed rail systems on sustainable benefits that can exist, not only from a “green” point of view but also in terms of economics. They also mentioned the importance of fighting to reduce costs and delimitate risks of public-private partnerships (PPP).

The second round table – moderated by APTA CEO and President Michael Melaniphy – targeting the future role of high speed in the transport market, has clearly demonstrated that all means of transport are going through a particularly innovative period.

It looks like we are at the eve of a revolution where two trends seem irreversible. Firstly people care less for car ownership. As the border between private and public transport is blurring, seamless door-to-door trips including a rail segment become more attractive. Secondly Internet and GPS are invading all the components of the transport system and information has a pervasive influence on the market shares and on the competition between and within transport modes.

The 8th UIC World Congress ended with a closing session animated by Jean-Pierre Loubinoux and a special testimony given by Polly Trottenberg, US DoT Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy. The United States is “still struggling” to determine how to fund all its transportation needs, she said. “In a fiscal environment where there are many, many investments that you could be making where the benefits are going to exceed the costs, but your resources are limited, you can’t do them all, so you have to make choices. And as a country right now, just as in Europe, we’re grappling with what those choices are… There is definitely some real difficult debate happening about where we should invest our scarce federal dollars,” she said.
“Transportation in the US has traditionally been a very, very bipartisan issue, and I think it’s something that we all really want to keep bipartisan,” she said. “These are important national investments, they’re going to last way beyond any given presidency or congress…so it’s important that you have real national consensus.” With an end to relatively effortless funding, however, it is no surprise that transportation has become part of the broader debate on the size and role of the government”, she added.

In response to a question from Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director-General, regarding the absence of passenger rail in particular from the MAP-21 legislation (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st century) Polly Trottenberg acknowledged the gap: “There are some things in the bill we wish we’d done better… One of the things we wished is that there had been a rail title and a clear vision on rail.”

All the presentations are available (for speakers only with username and password) at:

9th UIC HIGHSPEED to be held in 2015 in Japan

Jean-Pierre Loubinoux announced that the 9th edition of UIC HIGHSPEED will take place in June 2015 in Japan, where high speed rail was born with the first Shinkansen.

High Speed Rail Facts and Figures

Since the last UIC Congress on High Speed Rail held in Beijing in December 2010:

  • 3,577 km of high speed railway lines have entered service making a total of 17,547 km
  • 5,806 km under construction and 9,673 planned will be added to this number in the coming years
  • 15 billion passengers have travelled on high-speed rail – twice the world’s population

8th UIC World Congress on High Speed Rail - Key Figures

  • 3 Ministers
  • 32 CEOs and Directors from railway companies
  • 1,000 congress delegates from 37 countries
  • 2,700 visitors
  • 2 round tables and 25 parallel sessions, including 3 special sessions for high speed corridors around the world
  • 190 speakers: participants in opening session, round tables and parallel sessions
  • 80 exhibitors from 12 countries, 2,300 sq m of exhibition
  • 13 participants in the students’ programme
  • Train exhibition at 30th Street Station, Philadelphia
  • 3 technical visits

Special thanks

Special thanks is given to the teams which were involved in the Organisation and Scientific Committees.

For UIC:

  • Michel Leboeuf
  • Iñaki Barron (and Peter Gertler, from HNTB, for composing the Scientific Committee together with Michel Leboeuf and Iñaki Barron)
  • Hervé Aubert
  • Naoto Yanase
  • Barbara Mouchel
  • Paul Véron and all the Communications team

For American UIC members:

  • Amtrak (particularly Christine Suchy)
  • AAR
  • FRA
  • VIA Rail Canada (particularly Marc Laliberté)


  • Michael Melaniphy, President and CEO, for his personal commitment and his great friendship
  • Petra Mollet, Vice-President of Strategy
  • KellyAnne Gallagher and Kathy Waters, in charge of the general organisation of the Congress
  • Lenay Gore, in charge of the logistical aspects of the UIC statutory meetings and of the Congress
  • Joni Zielinski-Carlton and Julia Walkers, for the organisation of the “Washington Day”
  • Jack Gonzales, in charge of press relations
  • and all the APTA staff involved in this Congress preparation

Special thanks also to Freeman, the US company which helped UIC to make these meetings and the Congress technically possible.

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01. (© UIC / P. Fraysseix)
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04. From left to right: Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director-General and Ray LaHood, US Secretary of Transportation (© UIC / P. Fraysseix)
05. (© UIC / P. Fraysseix)
06. (© UIC / P. Fraysseix)
07. (© UIC / P. Fraysseix)
08. Round Table 1 (© UIC / P. Fraysseix)
09. Round Table 2 (© UIC / P. Fraysseix)
10. Parallel sessions (© UIC / P. Fraysseix)
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16. Polly Trottenberg, US DoT Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy (© UIC / P. Fraysseix)
17. From left to right: Michael Melaniphy, President and CEO of APTA and Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director-General (© UIC / P. Fraysseix)
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