The International Heavy Haul Association (IHHA) in partnership with Transnet and the South African Heavy Haul Association (SAHHA) hosted its 11th Conference from 2 – 6 September 2017 at the Cape Town Convention Centre.
The conference theme “Advancing Heavy Haul Technologies and Operations in a changing world” addressed recent market downturn with low commodity prices, low GDP growth rates and slowdown in demand for freight bulk commodities.
With 800 attendees from almost 50 countries, the conference focused on research and innovations related to how we can advance heavy haul technologies and operations to respond positively to this market downturn.
A technical workshop with 250 railway technical experts took place before the conference on 2 and 3 September and gave participants the opportunity to present selected topics within infrastructure, rolling stock and operation fields. Bernard Schmitt, UIC delegate, reported on some UIC freight projects related to longer trains. He underlined UIC’s role in the EU project Marathon and the current Freight CEO’s task force for longer trains.
At the opening ceremony Dr Cheryl Martin from Economic World Forum stressed the railway challenges regarding the 4th industrial revolution. This digital revolution is beyond IT issues and impacts various fields such as energy, mobility etc. and even much more human skills.
Over 180 concurrent sessions were held from 4 – 6 September, covering topics that focused on Track, Bridges and Tunnels, Vehicle Track Systems, Rolling Stock, Operations, Motive Power and Energy Efficiency.
During some plenary sessions, the participants gained an insight into the latest heavy haul development in some countries. The impact on productivity given by the introduction of 4.2 km long trains in the US and the automatic train operation in Australia was highlighted.
Michael Roney presented the outcomes of the benchmarking study on global technological trends amongst heavy haul countries.
UIC contributed to some issues and gained access to the content. A presentation of the results of this benchmark will be conducted at next Freight Forum session on 23 November in Paris.
A strategic session took place on the last day. This closed session reserved for C-level executives, industry and association executives, and some government officials, addressed a few topics. One of them was “How can play the rail freight industry a part in the 4th industrial revolution?” Interesting statements were made by delegates from GE Transportation, Canadian Pacific and Siemens.
The IHHA board met in parallel to these different meetings. It elected Brian Monakali (General Manager Capital Planning Transnet) for a two-year mandate as chairman and Thor Braekkan (Infrastructure Director Nord Region Bane Noord) Co-Chairman.
The members agreed unanimously on the proposal of the Nordic Heavy Haul Association to hold the 2019 conference in Narvik (Norway) .
This will be a good opportunity for all UIC European members to attend and participate in the workshops and sessions.
UIC and Jean Pierre Loubinoux (IHHA board member) will play an active part to make this conference successful.