Information published on 20 November 2012 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 320.

UIC Training: GIS for Rail Executives, Paris 7 – 8 November 2012

  • Expertise Development

The UIC Expertise Development Unit organised a training session on Geographical Information Systems (GIS), bringing together 25 participants from 12 countries.
As UIC Director-General, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, explained in his welcome address, GIS technology has existed for 3 – 4 decades and has been used by some European railways for more than 10 – 15 years. However, the “new thing” about GIS is that it is now entering into EU legislation and international railway cooperation.
Indeed, the European Union has recognised GIS capabilities and potential by stipulating, via the INSPIRE Directive, that the basic geographical railway data need to be available in GIS format by 2017. In addition, DG-Move was requested this autumn to integrate the GIS aspect into the future Register of Infrastructure (RINF) in order to improve its relevance to railway business needs. Mr Loubinoux pointed out that UIC’s mission is to be a step ahead and to bring to its Members’ attention new market trends and technological developments. For this reason, UIC organised this GIS training session, besides having hosted the International Rail GIS Summit for the last three years.

The two-day course explained the key benefits of GIS, i.e. increased efficiency, cost savings and better decision making due to the improved integration of traditionally disconnected domains.
To summarise shortly: GIS provides modern technologies (aerial orthophotos, GPS track measures, LIDAR…) for data capture enabling accurate 3D description of track, wayside and station assets. This geographical reference data can be used as such e.g. for network mapping and asset management or be visualised/transformed into simplified schemas according to different business usages, such as capacity conception, timetabling, signalling and train monitoring. GIS does not replace the existing railway applications, but helps to bring them together by using a geographical area as a common denominator. Finally, the railway data can be easily combined with other 3rd party data sets, such as soil composition, demographic concentration, intermodal networks and natural disaster risk zones for enhanced simulations, forecasting and planning.

This UIC training was designed to be a practical to-the-point course where all GIS examples and live demos came directly from European and Northern American railways. The lectures were furthermore highlighted by the experience of Mr Travis Engstrom, Chief Information Officer from San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) who had implemented GIS throughout the company from undersea tunnels up to the executive dashboards within less than two years. Mr Engstrom also gave a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of GIS implementation in BART and his practical tips for change management of work processes, in-sourcing, software deployment and GIS literature.

The 4th edition of the International Rail GIS Summit will be organised at UIC from 16 – 17 May 2013. This free-of-charge event is open to all participants interested in learning more about GIS potential for railways or making useful contacts with their peers.

For further information related to GIS, you can contact Erika Nissi (Rail system Department)

For further information related to training, you can contact Nathalie Amirault (Expertise Development Unit) and consult training offers at: