Tuesday 21 May 2019

European freight CEOs came together for their annual CER-UIC High-Level Freight Meeting on 16 May 2019 in Paris

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This year’s High-Level Freight Meeting (HLFM) – jointly organised by the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) and UIC met at the invitation of Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, and under the chairmanship of Clemens Först, CEO of Rail Cargo Group (Austria), at UIC Headquarters in Paris. Executives and high-level representatives from 20 companies and associations came together for the meeting.

In his welcome address, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux pointed out that this would be the last HLFM for him in his role of Director General of UIC. He welcomed his successor, François Da-venne, who will take over his tasks in a few weeks. He thanked Clemens Först for his valua-ble input and strong commitment to UIC and the HLFM and assured that UIC will continue providing all possible support to further meetings. Moreover, he underlined his commitment to the initiative “30 by 2030” and that UIC will help to position it in the framework of the preparation for COP25 in Santiago, Chile.

The chairman, Clemens Först, thanked Jean-Pierre Loubinoux very much for the support he has given to the HLFM. He found it a pleasure to work with him.
In his opening address, Clemens Först pointed out that the communication programme “Rail Freight Forward” has proven to be a great success (www.railfreightforward.eu; see video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyhVo3PJ5QM). Noah’s Train in particular attracted much public attention. He encouraged more members to join.

After the launch of the communications campaign to promote the sector’s ambition to drive modal shift, the freight teams worked on translating this ambition into a concrete work pro-gramme. It is strategy-based and result-driven and is structured around the improvement of operational issues and digital processes.

In the operational field, priority topics tackle cross-border issues such as the driver language problem, where the feasibility of replacing oral communication as much as possible by the exchange of standardised messages will be examined and tested in selected pilots.

Regarding digitalisation, UIC led the development of a roadmap for freight. This work was carried out with the Freight CIOs of the various companies and led to the elaboration of a work programme for 2019-2021. The top three priorities should deliver results by the end of 2019/beginning of 2020.

It was made clear that the efforts of freight railways must be backed by coherent political initiatives. European and national authorities must guarantee a level-playing field between transport modes, so that the above-mentioned activities can fully deploy their potential. Without fair competition, the European Union will never attain its climate goals.

All in all, nine projects have been identified as priority projects for 2019-2020, plus three projects with a special focus on digitalisation, resulting in a total of 12. The HLFM has unanimously endorsed the programme.
Special attention was paid to railway noise and the impact on daily operations in Switzer-land and Germany.

The day concluded with a focus on the technical developments of the road industry in the field of aerodynamic appendices and the increasing risk of lack of interoperability between road and rail.

The chairman closed the meeting after a day of interesting and fruitful discussions and an-nounced that next year’s meeting will take place on 28 May 2020 in Vienna.

For further information please contact Joost Overdijkink, Senior Freight Advisor:


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High-Level Freight Panel from left to right: Jacques Dirand, CER Head of Rail Freight Services; Libor Lochman, CER Executive Director; Clemens Först, CEO of Rail Cargo Group (Austria) and Chairman of the Freight Forum; Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General; Sandra Géhénot, UIC Freight Director; François Davenne, Deputy Director General