Friday 19 April 2013

UIC visits International Electrotechnical Commission in Geneva

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On the 19th March UIC visited Geneva’s International Electrotechnical Commission that is the international standards and conformity assessment body for all fields of electrotechnology.

The meeting, held to discuss technical cooperation between IEC and UIC on railway standardisation, was attended by IEC – Mr Baillif (IEC Technical Manager), and UIC – Mr Cau (Secretary of the UIC Standardisation Platform) and Mr Kersten and Mr Fletcher (Directors of the Rail System Department and of the Regional Assembly of Europe).
After a rapid description of the two Organisations, a basic overview on the specific context allowed a common understanding to be achieved on the involved stakeholders, on the characteristics of the railway service and on some of the key-points necessary to facilitate the expected step change of the sector.

The railway service – investments and developments

It was stressed that the production of railway knowledge is of capital importance for all the involved stakeholders and shall be targeted at final customers; in this perspective standardisation plays a decisive role and contributes to increasingly improve the performance and the efficiency of railway transport.

Mr Cau underlined that the production of railway services is possible because there is a system integration function performed by the Railway Operating Community that is responsible for it. The ROC represents the stakeholders naturally entitled to define the service functionalities, the performances and the level of sustainability of the items (systems, subsystems, processes, procedures, resources, etc.) that they use.

It is thus necessary to foster closer and stronger cooperation with the industrial side coordinating the requirements on the exploitable tools provided by the manufacturers in order to optimise the investments of the ROCs – and implicitly of the suppliers – and to focus on the real needs of the market (passenger and freight traffic), linking the expected level of service to affordable costs.

Tendency of railway standardisation

The integration of the systems, their complexity, the great drivers of the worldwide development, the challenges of technology, when applied to the railway compartment, need to be completed by other relevant essential characteristics, like for instance safety – that is a priority – and interoperability, that cannot exclude the description of unmistakable proper physical and logical interfaces.

The definition of the railway subsystems shall rely upon a clear identification of the expected KPIs and fit to the relevant inputs deriving from the business cases developments. Strong support from the operations side is needed to prevent long commissioning, unexpected redesigns and delayed time-to-market.

At the same time the standards shall increasingly respect a profitable investment management of all the involved parties in a demand driven logic; in this line LCC is one of the most important elements to consider together with down-compatibility towards the existing realisations, unless more advantageous conditions are fulfilled. Such cornerstones are the conditions to allow the development of new techniques and technologies, respecting the initiative of the different suppliers.

Looking for an agreement

During the session UIC also had the opportunity to present the reasons and benefits that this collaboration would produce, summarising the main elements to prepare for the next steps that are: the involvement of TC9 – Electrical equipment and systems for railways in order to verify and finalise the background documents (harmonisation of the activities, updating documents, programme of work,…), the definition of the fields and of the standards that are candidates to work together and in parallel the drafting for the future UIC-IEC agreement.

The next IEC-UIC meeting will be held in Paris, UIC HQ, on 5 June this year.

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IEC Central Office Building in Geneva