Information published on 18 May 2010 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 185.

Global Rail Freight Conference

Interview with Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, and Oliver Sellnick, UIC Freight Director

  • Freight

Our goal is to create a global rail freight summit which should be the reference for rail and logistics conferences. This event should be cemented in the rail freight calendar and be repeated annually with the aim of tackling the most interesting railway topics on a recurrent basis,” says Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General.

Following its success in New Delhi, GRFC 2010 marks its second edition by bringing together the sector’s top executives and decision makers, rail and logistics professionals, customers, influential politicians and regulators, and institutions from across the globe for an integrated and interactive event.

Under the patronage of the UN and in cooperation with a large number of international organisations, the conference will feature leading rail freight figures speaking on key freight issues.

This conference will serve as a launch pad for the exchange of best practices, networking with rail professionals from all around the world and, in addition, furnish them with the opportunity to discuss new perspectives and needs for efficient, safe and economically viable transport solutions.
The Trans-Siberian rail route, the major freight route between Asia and Europe, offers a fully developed container service across the Eurasian land bridge. With its central position the Russian Railways plays a pivotal role in the success of cooperation and development between these two continents. This is why we decided to organize this conference in St Petersburg”, explains Jean-Pierre Loubinoux.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the conference?

It will be a two-day conference covering the most relevant global freight issues. Key topics such as how the global recession is affecting rail opportunities will be debated as well as the benefits for the customers of having rail as a base in their global supply chain. “UIC organizes conferences with the aim of facilitating a platform for networking among rail professionals and deliberating rail opportunities and problems throughout the industry. For these reasons we have invited top-level executives from all over the world to provide you with the most up-to-date information of the rail sector”, says Jean-Pierre Loubinoux.

Could you tell us more about UIC’s role in the freight sector?

UIC’s role in the freight sector is to promote rail freight by assisting members to either increase revenues with an improved competitiveness of products or to reduce costs with harmonized operational, information and business processes. To achieve this, UIC works as a facilitator and neutral manager of multilateral cooperation in non-competitive areas, and organises knowledge transfer with the help benchmarks, workshops and conferences. The UIC Freight Forum comprises project groups developing cooperative solutions and services for combined traffic, wagonload and intercontinental landbridges. It entertains standing groups to improve operations and to apply information technology, to stimulate quality improvements and to facilitate mutual wagon use”, says Oliver Sellnick, UIC Freight Director.

What are the key trends in the industry?

Combined traffic has been the only growth segment of rail for decades. It has facilitated the integration of rail into logistic chains and has helped rail to benefit from the dynamic growth of container-based sea traffic between the continents. However, railways usually complain about a low margin in Europe leading to a lack of investments into capacity. While the need for infrastructure investments to resolve bottlenecks of track and terminal networks is undisputed, railway operators, intermodal operators, terminal managers and infrastructure managers have to work together in a more intelligent way if they want to optimise the capacity utilisation of the given infrastructure at any time. The « Masterplan 2015 for Combined Traffic in Europe » (UIC Diomis report) provides a whole set of proposals for all stakeholders. It points to a stronger industrialisation of combined traffic creating sustainable economics without which railways will not be able to fulfil the public expectations for a modal shift. Railroads in other parts of the world have achieved higher levels of efficiency. An exchange during the Global Rail Freight Conference might stimulate the development.

Wagonload is still for most of the larger European networks the lion’s share of their business and even more so of their costs. Two strategies have emerged in the last few years. Trenitalia, Fret SNCF and RENFE believe in converting wagonload business as far as possible to new production schemes not so different from block trains. CD Cargo, CFL Cargo, DB Schenker Rail, Green Cargo, Rail Cargo Austria, SBB Cargo and SNCB Cargo have set up the international production alliance Xrail, based on the assumption that a standardised, transparent and reliable product will allow to grow profitable long distance wagonload business in Europe. “But considering the commercial success on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, isn’t there anything the Europeans could learn from North America? I believe capacity management could be the key to become both reliable as well as to reduce the costs”, says Oliver Sellnick.

What are the benefits of using rail freight?

Apart from being the safest transport mode, rail is the most environmentally-friendly mode. Today the global share of CO2 emissions from transport is 23%, and it is expected to rise to 33% by 2050. Rail can curb the emissions of the transport sector by offering low carbon logistics solutions. One example, which will facilitate the awareness of rail freight’s competitiveness, is the European Environment Agency-approved EcoTransIT tool. “Accessible via the internet, it calculates the carbon emissions produced by transporting a defined tonnage of freight in Europe by road, water, air or rail. In May we launch the world version of this tool, which will enable us to provide carbon foot-prints of logistical chains on global level” explains Oliver Sellnick.

What does the future hold for rail freight? What are the key drivers for success?
Strong players have been using the times of reduced demand during the crisis for streamlining processes and for intensifying the dialogue with existing and potential customers. The key will be – more than ever – how railways can deliver on the promise to create value for their customers. Rail Freight has enormous potential if the railways can create seamless transport solutions tailored to customer needs and embedded to their logistic chains.

Finally, to conclude, what would the last key message be from your side?

If you only attend one conference in 2010 then this should be the one.” says Jean-Pierre Loubinoux. “It will provide you with a unique overview of the latest trends of the railway sector from a business point of view and give you the opportunity to exchange ideas in a global but at the same time intimate atmosphere,” says Oliver Sellnick.