The Final Conference for the EC funded FOSTER-RAIL project was held on 7 April at the Marriott Hotel in Brussels. About 70 people attended this event, including representatives of DG MOVE – European Commission, representatives of a number of Member States, the FOSTER-RAIL project partners as well as many ERRAC rail stakeholders and representatives of other modes of transport. The conference was opened by the ERRAC chairman Mr Andy Doherty. In his opening words he gave special attention to the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels and especially to one of our CER colleagues Mrs Aline Bastin who was unfortunately one of the casualties. He said that more than ever safety and security of the rail system is at the focus of our attention.
The central topic – the achievements of the FOSTER-RAIL project were embedded in a number of other related interesting topics:
Mr Keir Fitch explained on behalf of the European Commission that Joint Undertakings, like Shift2Rail, are specially designed within Horizon 2020 to overcome the issues of R&I fragmentation and to support market uptake and the implementation of innovative solutions. Shift2Rail represents a powerful instrument to complement and support the establishment of the Single European Railway Area and contributes to meeting the ambitious objectives of the EU transport policy.
He explained the opportunities for rail research & innovation within the current H2020 programme and stated that in order to be successful in delivering its ambitions, the rail sector will have to ensure:
- An effective cooperation among the different actors of the rail sector, guaranteeing that the user needs are properly reflected in the development of innovative solutions and that the broader research community can contribute to the excellence of the programme
- A properly functioning system approach to allow sufficient coordination of the different R&I activities and deliver solutions responding to the sector’s needs
- That the critical challenges faced by the rail sector are well addressed by the planned R&I activities, incl. taking into account the diversity of networks / businesses / operations across Europe;
- A real added-value of the R&I activities and a long term contribution to a joint
- vision delivering the sector’s ambitions
The ERRAC chairman went on to present the ideas and suggestions for the future of ERRAC as the European Technology Platform for rail as discussed previously by the ERRAC Strategic Board. A review of the role of ERRAC had become necessary because of the changing rail innovation landscape and the set-up of the S2R Joint Undertaking. Following his presentation entitled: “ERRAC evolution and regeneration - a changed and new role in the railway vision of the future railway? “ he presented his views for discussion in the form of a Declaration which was then endorsed by the ERRAC Plenary members as the way forward for ERRAC. The presentation and the text of the Declaration can de downloaded from the errac.org website.
The FOSTER-RAIL project coordinator Mr. Dennis Schut then gave an overview of the content and the achievements of the FOSTER-RAIL project which started in May 2014 and will end at the end of April 2016. The project was funded by the European commission and was designed to support ERRAC, the European Rail Research Advisory Council. The work has built on the previous achievements and publications. Among other things, the project has developed initiatives for closer cooperation between ERRAC and the other transport related European Technology Platforms in order to investigate opportunities for the modes of transport to get better connected and cooperate in innovation. On the other hand links were explored and strengthened between the ERRAC (European) level and the rail research & innovation related organisations and activities on a national level.
A great deal of effort has been invested in the development of the most likely 2050 rail business scenario to build the updated SRRIA – Strategic Rail Research & Innovation Agenda and the new and updated 10 part-research & innovation roadmaps to put the development of rail as the backbone of the transport system on the track towards 2050. The project also considered the (future) relation between ERRAC and Shift2Rail. One of the eight work packages also continued to evaluate previous European rail research projects and the way the results of each of these projects has found the way to implementation and market uptake.
Following the general project overview, the leaders of each of the 10 part-roadmaps presented a resume of their work. The extensive versions of each of these part-roadmaps can be downloaded from the errac.org website (under ‘Foster-Rail’) as well as an integrated roadmap brochure, a brochure describing the contents of the total project as well as many other project deliverables. The project coordinator informed the attendees that the text of the integrated roadmap brochure will be translated into 5 languages of a number of Eastern and South-Eastern European countries in order to considerably enhance the impact of the 36 months of hard work. There is a large need and potential for innovation of the rail system in these countries as well as a high level of expertise but in comparison to western European countries a lower degree of command of the English language. Translations in the Polish, Bulgarian, Romanian, Czech and Serbian languages will soon be available from the errac.org website. This information met with a positive reception among the audience!
The last presentation of this interesting event was made by Prof. Manuel Pereira, academic vice-chairman of ERRAC. He described the first results of one of the last deliverables of the project, a comparison between the ERRAC SRRIA and the Multi Annual Action Plan of Shift2Rail. Together with the other results of the FOSTER-RAIL project – SRRIA and Roadmaps – this comparison will present valuable input to the EC and the other rail stakeholders for the content of the future work programmes and calls for proposals for H2020 and S2R, as well as for their follow-up after 2020.
Due to other important obligations, the UIC Director-General Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux could not attend this Final Conference. Project Coordinator and UIC Research Manager Dennis Schut read to the audience a personal message sent by Mr Loubinoux. Among other things he stated that “it has not been an easy ride to run this project alongside the development of the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking which has taken much of the specialised rail research and innovation manpower from many of the European rail stakeholders. Nevertheless, the project consortium has managed to develop a great number of important deliverables which should be used to guide the steps forward towards the necessary innovation of the European Railway system in becoming the backbone of the EU transport system as the main intermodal component… and doing so, in full support of the EC’s Transport White Paper and its aims for a sustainable European transport system.
These important FOSTER-RAIL deliverables such as the Rail Business Scenarios and based upon these the new Strategic Rail Research & Innovation Agenda and its 10 part Roadmaps will also provide a strong input to the future Horizon 2020 and S2R work programmes and call topics as well as being the basis for the future transport related research programmes and calls.
Having had the honour of being the coordinating organisation for this strategic project, I would like to thank the European Commission, all project partners and all other contributors for successfully supporting this project and its deliverables.
I hope that all European transport stakeholders will take notice of the interesting project results and will use them as building block for our future sustainable and customer focused European transportation system. You can be assured that the UIC and the Rail Operating Community will do so and will continue to give its strong support to ERRAC!”
The ERRAC chairman Mr. Andy Doherty thanked everybody for their attendance and participation in the final event of the important FOSTER-RAIL project and officially concluded.
A special interactive workshop will be organised for UIC members at UIC HQ in Paris – possibly on 28 May – to present and discuss how to implement the FOSTER-RAIL Rail Research & Innovation Roadmaps. You will be kept informed through the forthcoming issues of UIC eNews.
The speech of Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux is available here: http://uic.org/com/IMG/pdf/speech_of_mr_loubinoux.pdf