Amidst many statutory meetings, UIC also hosted the Plenary Meeting of the IRRB (International Rail Research Board), ably led by its chairman Mr Boris Lapidus, Director- General of VNIIZhT, the main research institute of RZD – Russian Railways. The agenda mainly concentrated on the priority implementation areas of the 2014 – 2016 IRRB Strategy Document (2014– 2016), its progress and the planning for 2015.
UIC’s Director-General Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux welcomed all participants and was happy to see even more members participating in this important UIC working body. He especially welcomed the newest member of the IRRB, Mr Stefan Eisenbach of UBIMET, a scientific research centre supporting members in the field of climate resilience of infrastructure and operations. Mr Loubinoux mentioned that Research and Innovation are among the most important issues for UIC. He referred to the UIC Global Research and Innovation Awards being held as part of the General Assembly of 3 December, ensuring high visibility to all. He stated that the various pillars on which the IRRB focuses are very pragmatic and important.
He went on to say that the UIC organises between 40 and 50 major conferences and workshops every year, all over the world. Looking at our added-value globally this means an equivalent of roughly 30,000 man-days of knowledge exchanges, discussions, etc. for the good of the global railway community. IRRB is one of the most active. We need to work together!
He also mentioned the growing position of UIC in sustainable development with recognition of the association at the highest level of the UN. The UN’s World Summit held last September counted a pragmatic saving of up to 60 – 70 trillion dollars in the next 30 years, a saving resulting from the shift of transport to rail. The UN has recognised this fact and also now regards rail as the backbone of the future transportation mix. For the future it is clear that this area of sustainability will gain more and more importance for UIC.
During the introduction to this meeting, Mr Lapidus again highlighted the importance of research and innovation for the rail sector. It is one of our tasks to create the conditions so that railways don’t have to invent “bicycles” but learn from each other and develop common approaches. In doing this we should take into account that every country has different conditions such as shared lines for freight and passenger traffic or has tracks mainly dedicated to freight, etc... Whatever the case may be, railways should become more competitive and research should support this process.
After a short update on important research and standardisation related issues, including an explanation about the process to convert the UIC leaflets into International Railway Standards (IRS) Mr Hans-Günther Kersten – UIC Rail System Department Director presented the progress in the development of the GVRD – the Global Vision for Railway Development – which is based among others on the strategic documents from the UIC Regions.
The most recent of these documents have been forwarded by IRRB Vice-Chair Mrs Vicki Brown: the Australian Rail Strategy 2014, created as a contribution to the UIC Asia Pacific Concept 2050. The draft document and the presentation used in the IRRB were also disseminated for comments to the members of the UIC General Assembly for the meeting of 3 December. According to the planning, the GVRD will be finalised during the UIC GA 2015 in Tokyo next summer (which will be the first UIC “paperless” meeting).
Vice-Chairman Mr Andy Doherty presented the progress made and the way forward towards the definition of global research priority areas (IRRB Strategic area 2). He stated that it is of great importance to make good use of the opportunity to work together on the new technologies, because through a common implementation we can significantly reduce the cost of implementation. When we can agree the common target areas, we can develop common standards. An important area for future cooperation, exchange knowledge, maintenance plans and more, could be the field of composites. He announced that on 3 December the UK will announce the opening of a huge composite centre. One of the aims is to develop standards supported by specialist universities.
The chairman underlined that this is a very important area for cooperation between the members and that the IRRB should focus even more on this in 2015. He saw a direct link between this strategic area and n° 03, (Area 03) – the World Class Research Capacity Plan and funding sources for which Vice-Chairman Mr Jaroslav Grim and Mr Jaroslav Vasatko presented an update. The second speaker also presented the newly developed questionnaires.
Vice-Chairman Mr Guven Kandemir, presented the progress in Area 04: Dissemination and exchange of knowledge and information. A number of suggestions were made for an improved and more tailored approach to the information of dissemination and exchange of knowledge between our members and other rail stakeholders. He also offered staff support from his organisation TCDD to the operation of the UIC Research Portal and SPARK. Although unfortunately, the Co Vice-Chairman of this strategic area, Mrs Vicki Brown of ACRI (Australia), has indicated that she fully supports this common approach.
Next, the results of the 2014 UIC Global Research and Innovation Awards were presented and the process was evaluated in a short discussion. The winners were officially to be announced and presented with awards during the UIC GA the next day. A special focus on the innovative work of the winners in each of the categories will be given in the forthcoming issues of UIC e-News to give these innovations increased visibility to all UIC members.
Finally, information was provided about the new Limited Affiliate UIC Membership category which enables the IRRB as a UIC body to be supported by the scientific and academic community. Related to this issue, the UIC Talent project and the new Executive MBA – especially dedicated to rail and which will start in February 2015 – were presented by Mr Jerzy Wisniewski, UIC Director for Fundamental Values.
In conclusion, the chairman stated that he was content with the important steps which have been made in the implementation of the IRRB Strategy 2014 – 2016 and expected to make even further progress in 2015. Information about the progress of the IRRB was reported to the UIC GA. The presentations given during this IRRB Plenary Meeting will soon be uploaded to the UIC Extranet.