The TopRail (Tourist Opportunities for Railways), working group meeting took place on 20 and 21 June in Barcelona, kindly hosted by Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC).
The meeting was chaired by Mr Carles Casas (FGC), president of the group. UIC was represented by Mr Ignacio Barrón, Director of the Passenger Department and Ms Vanessa Pérez, Advisor for the same department. Representatives from 10 different countries and companies FSI, JR Group, Irish Rail, RENFE, MÁV-START, Korail, SBB, Tren de Ecuador, as well as, UNECTO and FEDECRAIL attended the meeting.
The market for tourism by train is growing and evidence for this can be found in the numerous new special trains launched in the last months. During this TopRail meeting two of them were explained in detail to the rest of the participants: the Shiki-Shima, from Japan, and the Gotthard Panorama Express, from Switzerland.
Ms Nami Mizuguchi presented the new Shiki-Shima train suite. She highlighted the incredible effort that has been made by all the members of JR East over the last 10 years to create one of the most luxurious sleeper trains in Japan. Designated to be the icon of the company, every detail (from the design to the gastronomy on board) has been taken into consideration in the Shiki-Shima to create an unforgettable experience by rail based on East Japan culture.
Mr Jörg Ostwald presented a new SBB tourist oriented product that will join the ranks of similar premium Swiss Alpine narrow-gauge services such as the Glacier Express, Bernina Express and Golden Pass Panoramic.
When the new Gotthard Tunnel was opened in December 2016 and most of SBB’s long long-distance passenger services between Lucerne and Bellinzona were routed through this line, the opportunity of creating a new tourist train arose. The Gotthard Panorama Express was launched last April and will run between Flüelen, Bellinzona and Lugano combined with a steamer trip across Lake Lucerne from Flüelen to Lucerne.
After an enriching discussion about the challenges of creating a new tourist product by rail, the second part of the meeting was dedicated to the work that has been developed by the group during the last months: The Guidelines on Sustainable Tourism by Rail.
On the second day, the participants went on a technical visit from Barcelona to Montserrat. During the visit, they had the opportunity to discover this special mountain rack railway and funiculars. With these services, FGC contributes to a more sustainable tourism in the Barcelona area by providing organised access to the popular sacred mountain of Montserrat with its Benedictine abbey and amazing landscapes.
Notice that the UIC members have been encouraged to sign the Charter for Sustainable Tourism by Rail. Interested members are welcome to send the Charter and their best practices regarding sustainable tourism within the next few weeks to participate in the United Nations Year of Sustainable Tourism.
The next TopRail meeting will be held on 3 October 2017.