The annual Freight CEOs gathering opened on Wednesday 20 April with a cocktail reception hosted by RCG. Ferdinand Schmidt, RCG Board Member, welcomed all and gave the floor to the guest speaker, Ralf Charley Schultze UIRR General Director, whose message stressed the importance of the combined transport segment and evoked the possible revision of the Combined Transport Directive.
Although this edition of the HLFM focused largely on European corridor related issues, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, reminded in his opening statement that at last year’s meeting, CEOs and representatives of UIP had a dedicated session to discuss the way forward on the issue of liability of railway undertakings and wagon keepers for damages caused by wagons during railway operations, under COTIF 1999 and the General Contract for Use for wagons (GCU). He reported that, after lengthy discussions, an agreement was found between UIC-UIP-ERFA on a suitable phrasing for this topic. He thanked all those involved, experts, CEOs, and particularly the High Level Freight Meeting Chairmen for their personal involvement. Mr Loubinoux also stressed UIC’s know-how as a technical platform and put to the fore the coordination and harmonisation work achieved by UIC run projects like ECCO (efficient cross corridor organisation) which actively support the CEO Task Force on a number of key topics.
This year’s High Level Freight meeting agenda points actually focused on priority topics dealt with by the so-called CEO Task Force set up in May 2015. Under the Chairmanship of Reinhard Bamberger and coordinated by UIC and CER, the CEO Task Force represents the CEOs’ commitment and personal engagement to progress key issues impacting the productivity of rail freight. The topics under discussion were ETCS, short-distance cross border interoperability, timetabling, vehicle authorisation, train parameters and coordination of work. For all these issues, the need for a system approach was emphasised and the importance of a pro-customer approach underlined. The messages and proposed actions developed by the Task Force were also discussed with Sian Prout, Head of Unit “Single European Railway Area” at DG Move.
This year’s edition of the HLFM marked the end of Reinhard Bamberger’s Chairmanship. He was warmly thanked by all CEOs for his incredible work and personal engagement in relation to the CEO Task Force which, after only several months of existence, came to some concrete breakthrough in key areas of rail freight operation such as ERTMS, the issue of driver language in cross border operation etc.
Mr Ferdinand Schmidt has now taken on the Chairmanship of the UIC-CER High Level Freight meeting.