Extraordinary meeting of the UIC Safety Platform Steering Group (Paris, 29 August 2013)

Following the dramatic series of consecutive railway accidents that occurred in July in Lac-Mégantic (Canada, 7 July), Brétigny-sur-Orge (France, 12 July), Santiago de Compostela (Spain, 24 July) and Grange-près-Marnand (Switzerland, 29 July 2013) causing a high number of fatalities, with passengers killed or injured, UIC Director-General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux in close liaison with UIC Safety Platform Chairman Ing. Peter Kleinschuster and the UIC Rail Safety Unit led by Peter Gerhardt, took the initiative to convene an Extraordinary meeting of the Safety Platform Steering Group at the earliest possible date. The main purpose of this meeting was to organise an exchange of information on a professional and confidential basis on the series of railway accidents, in particular the description and consequences of the accidents, an overview of the first technical and procedural measures taken, and the “initial lessons that can benefit the entire railway community in the field of safety and prevention of accidents. A further objective was also to have a first exchange on the support that UIC could offer to its members in the field of external communications on railway safety, in order to cope with the high number of requests from international media following railway accidents.

The Extraordinary meeting of the UIC Safety Platform Steering Group was held on 29 August at UIC Headquarters in Paris. It was chaired by Ing. Peter Kleinschuster from ÖBB (Austria), assisted by Peter Gerhardt, Head of UIC Safety Unit, and attended by Heads of Safety and other Managers from SNCF and RFF (France), DB AG (Germany), EJRC (Japan), Infrabel (Belgium), PKP SA (Poland), RENFE (Spain), RSSB (United Kingdom), SBB-CFF (Switzerland) and Trafikverket (Sweden). The meeting was also attended by UIC Directors and representatives from all UIC Departments concerned.

In welcoming the participants, UIC Director-General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux stressed the importance of ensuring strong solidarity within the UIC railway family, in particular with members affected by such dramatic circumstances. It is also the responsibility of UIC to examine what kind of support can be offered to the members concerned, and to arrange for members to share professional and technical best practice on railway safety and accident prevention. Considering the strong impact of railway accidents on media and public opinion, this extraordinary meeting will also allow a discussion to be launched on possible guidelines for external communications on railway safety and accidents, to be shared with member railways in view of ensuring coherence and consistency.

The major part of the meeting was dedicated to the description of the circumstances of the recent railway accidents in Brétigny-sur-Orge (by SNCF), Santiago-de-Compostela (by RENFE) and Grange-près-Marnand (by SBB-CFF) as internal information for participants. The presentations were followed by questions from the participants.

Another topic on the agenda dealt with the procedure for rapidly sharing information about major railway accidents between Safety Platform Steering Group members. This should be achieved in particular through exchanges in the framework of IRSN.

The next topic was the description of the added value of the UIC Safety Database managed by the UIC Rail Safety Unit (Olivier Georger) and gathering data on events and accidents from 20 participating (European) railway companies.

The last part of the extraordinary meeting was dedicated to external communications on rail safety and the support that UIC could propose to its members in this matter, particularly during the period following accidents where the media show increased interest in general aspects of railway safety.
Of course, communicating with the media directly following accidents is managed by the crisis communications system of each individual railway. But at a later stage, it appears that many requests from the media are received at UIC on safety statistics, intermodal comparisons of transport safety, etc. In this context it was agreed during the meeting, as a first step, to think about a number of rail safety indicators that could be easily handed over to media – at their request – to illustrate the safety performance of rail transport. The next step should be the preparation of a “media kit” to be shared with the communications departments of member railways, including statistical data on rail safety, elements characterising railway safety, description of members’ activities and UIC aiming to improve rail safety performance, etc.

For further information, please contact: Peter Gerhardt, Head of the UIC Rail Safety Unit, gerhardt@uic.org, Paul Véron, Director of Communications, veron@uic.org

2 Votes

Average rating: 4.5 / 5


For the special STATIONS issue of eNews due to be published on October 1, share your dreams of the ideal station

  • Do you see stations being different in the future?
  • Are you a budding author, or maybe you just like writing?
  • Would you like to tell us your ideas? To give your imagination a free rein on the future of stations?

If so, put down your dream in writing on a maximum of one page and send it to Marie Plaud at plaud@uic.org

(Authors may choose to have their work appear under their own name or anonymously)

Some of the dreams will be published in the special Stations issue of eNews on October 1.

And several may be awarded prizes linked to the world of stations.

So, what are you waiting for? Get writing!

2 Votes

Average rating: 4 / 5


Research and Innovation – essential components in the development of a healthy and efficient railway system

The European rail operating community (ROC) of Railway Undertakings and Infrastructure Managers believes firmly that a strong programme of Research and Innovation is a fundamental requisite in sustaining and developing the European rail system. The recognition of the importance of this is demonstrated by the European Commission’s (EC) Framework Programme for Research and Development and its new programme “Horizon 2020” that focuses on research and innovation.

Collaborative research that studies potential solutions to problem areas in the rail system has been the bedrock on which the programme until now has been built. That has contributed significantly to improvements in the rail system but the deliverables from such projects are often at a relatively low level of technical readiness and often need subsequent further development before being able to be operationally utilised or marketed.

The UIC has been particularly active on behalf of its members within this framework much of which undertaken in collaboration with other sector stakeholders through ERRAC. There have been numerous projects contributed to or coordinated by the UIC and as a result the UIC’s credibility as a reliable and professional project management body is acknowledged by the EC.

This level of technical readiness is not sustainable if the rail sector is going to be able to compete in an effective manner with the evolving transport modes such as road and aviation. Developing a programme that sets out to take innovation to a higher level that includes demonstrating the worth or applicability of the deliverables, is the objective of the thinking behind the Shift²Rail initiative.

Ever since the ROC became aware that Shift²Rail was being developed, there has been formal indication of support for such an initiative. The ROC has continually expressed its aspirations that those behind the initial scheme, principally manufacturers of railway equipment, must ensure that the programme being developed provides a level playing field for the total involvement of stakeholders from the ROC.

These aspirations need to be countered by the fact that the structure of the railway sector in Europe today has in effect created an imbalance that has directly affected the capacity of the ROC to be able to engage in large scale initiatives such as Shift²Rail. The smaller and medium-sized RUs, even if they have emerged from larger formerly-integrated organisations, are naturally very keen to ensure that the railway system of the future fits their business model. They are however not able to sustain a significant research and innovation team and associated budget. Even if there are some that do have the capacity to maintain this developmental activity, it is normal that they are focussing on the real issues that affect their business and not the whole system.
The IMs, most of whom are entirely responsible for the rail infrastructure in their country, are not all in a position of being able to effectively innovate. Whilst there may be some who are looking at a wider picture than simply innovation of infrastructure hardware, this is unlikely to be a truly whole-system approach that would cover issues that are unique to the RUs.

The manufacturers have of course an entirely different business model and for whom of course the ROC is their principle client base. Whilst their main focus is on developing marketable products, there is the need to also focus on the interfaces that go to make an operationally efficient and reliable railway system.
Far from the passive attitude that recent commentators seem to consider is endemic within the railway sector, the ROC has been identifying how the involvement of a wider but less affluent constituency might be possible.

With the backing of our members in the European region, the UIC has put together a proposal for a “collegiate” approach to involvement in Shift²Rail. This could be at either full TID level or at Associate level depending on how this proposal is matured with the initiators of Shift²Rail and depending on the kind of innovative development the ROC would like to undertake. There has been a coordinated action by the ROC facilitated by the UIC to draw together an innovation matrix that highlights a range of prioritised issues that the ROC believes it could lead or at least be a part of within Shift²Rail.
Shift²Rail has a stated core focus to improve capacity so as to enable the rail system to absorb a greater share of traffic, increase efficiency and sustainability and develop customer-friendly, safe vehicles. This is an important issue and one upon which the entire rail sector should be working so that rail is an attractive mode of choice to the customer.

None of this can be achieved if the Shift²Rail framework is not designed to embrace direct involvement of the ROC in the programme at every possible level either independently or collegiately.

The current framework and associated governance does not yet cater for this level of stakeholder involvement, an involvement that enables the ROC to engage from a platform that is at least equal to if not level with the stakeholders that are initiating the proposal.

The important aspect is that Shift²Rail emerges as a structure that is able to be inclusive of a wide range of stakeholders. Working with the Shift²Rail initiators so that the proposal framework can be adjusted such to meet the aspirations of the ROC stakeholders is something that will be happening in the coming weeks.
This level of promised engagement will enable the ROC to ensure that the Shift²Rail framework will mean that ROC companies at all business levels will be able to play the role that they wish to for the greater benefit of rail in general.

1 vote

Average rating: 4 / 5

Rail Topo Model and railML® (Paris, 17 September 2013)

The foundation for a Universal Infrastructure Data Exchange Format

There is a growing consensus within the railway community on the need to initiate standards/best practice for railway infrastructure data modelling and exchange, available in open formats.

Railways need to exchange network data increasingly often to meet both legal obligations and normal business needs. The current stand-alone/one-off solutions make this data exchange extremely inefficient and expensive.

The combined experience of European Infrastructure Managers and Industry partners now creates the possibility to model a standardised representation of the railway topology and to provide the basis of an open, scalable and extendable data exchange format. These international standards would be available for railway sector, but wouldn’t prevent the employ of usual/national formats.

This UIC conference is organised with the contribution of several Infrastructure Managers, ERA and railML Consortium (www.railml.org) to propose a target and road map to design, build and deploy the common solution for data exchange. A small feasibility study (conducted by UIC ERIM activity) underpins the proposed approach. The Infrastructure Managers, Railway Undertakings, National and European Authorities, Manufacturers, Industrial partners and IT industry are welcome to participate and give their feedback.

The conference agenda and abstract are available here for download:


Registration directly to nissi@uic.org by 14 September.

The annual railML conference is hosted by UIC the next day, 18 September.
For registration and more information


For further information please contact Erika Nissi: nissi@uic.org

1 vote

Average rating: 3 / 5


Publications on level crossing safety

The European Railway Review published a Supplement on Level Crossing Safety in August dealing with:

Improving on improvements – Network Rail has spent the last two years developing and implementing a huge business change programme for level crossing safety improvement. With the aim of Network Rail’s CEO to reduce risk by 25% by March 2014 in return for a company investment of over £130 million, Martin Gallagher, Head of Level Crossings at Network Rail who leads the project, highlights for European Railway Review readers the results the infrastructure owner has already achieved through various action plans…

Reducing fatalities – a high priority for Lithuanian Railways. Although Lithuanian Railways have achieved excellent results in improving safety at level crossings, they still constitute a major safety concern. Compared with the annual number of fatalities in road accidents in Lithuania, fatalities at level crossings amount to just 1%. Despite this low figure, safety at level crossings remains a high priority for Lithuanian Railways…

Reducing fatalities – a worldwide issue – Isabelle Fonverne, Safety and Interoperability Projects Officer, UIC.
The train is the safest mode of land transport but the interface between road and rail is very risky. According to the European Railway Agency (ERA), in recent years one person has been killed and close to one seriously injured every day (on average) at level crossings in the EU…

For further information please contact: fonverne@uic.org and read the digital version of Issue 4 2013:


1 vote

Average rating: 4 / 5

UIC calendar

UIC e-News Legal Editor: Marie Plaud-Lombard
Coordination: Helen Slaney
Editorial team: UIC e-News Team, Paris 3 September 2013

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