The event was opened by Commissioner BULC who emphasised how rail freight is part of the EU decarbonisation strategy and therefore needs the tools to deliver.
The day focused on the implementation of the Rail Freight Corridors and more particularly on the 10 sector priorities forming the backbone of the Sector Statement signed in Rotterdam in the summer of 2016.
Freight CEOs, active in the CEO Task Force, had the opportunity to take the floor in every panel.
Sylvie Charles, CEO SNCF Logistics, particularly emphasised the need for a level playing in the context of the revision of the Eurovignette. She also strongly emphasised the productivity gains thanks to digital technologies and the importance to create an open standard: “We escaped from monopolies and we do not want new monopolies on digitalisation”, she said.
Michael Stahlhut, CEO SBB Cargo International, took part in the panel looking into the lessons to be learnt from the Rastatt incident. He informed the audience on the outcome of a dedicated forum organised by Hupac the day before and said: “We need to redesign the role of rail as partner of the supply chain. We need contingency plans with back-up routings, improved international traffic management, and a clear responsibility of infrastructure managers as part of the supply chain are crucial factors for the future of rail freight transportation.”
Clemens Först, CEO Rail Cargo Group and Chairman of the CEO Task Force, took part in a lively discussion on interoperability. He strongly stressed the need for a mind change towards what rail freight can bring to society and the need to simplify processes. “No matter how passionate you are, with 6 control systems, 8 loco- and 11 driver-changes, running a train from Germany to Turkey is like a hurdle race.”
Geert Pauwels addressed the audience on the question of capacity and explained the mission and vision for rail freight in the future supply chain management of Europe. Insisting on the urgency of the situation, he asked infrastructure managers to “make a train run through Europe as easy as a truck does”. This need for further highlighted by Jan Kilstrom, CEO Green Cargo, who insisted on the market need for Track and Trace.
The concluding panel addressed the question: Rail Freight Corridors: the way forward? and Sandra Géhénot, UIC Freight Director, was invited to share the experience of the ECCO Project Group.
She explained that ECCO is a UIC project aiming at harmonising the process across all 9 RFCs. The project was initiated because the regulation did not foresee any cross-corridor coordination; yet this coordination is essential for the initiative to produce the expected benefits and for the productivity of RUs not to be negatively impacted. As the growth driver for rail freight is the international business, the rail system has to mirror this in its working processes. This is why the corridor philosophy is welcome because it is an attempt to propose international products rather than a patchwork of domestic offers and it is a vector to initiate a “systems approach” between all stakeholders of the chain: Ministries – IMs- Corridors – RUs -Terminals and customers. However, two or four years on after their establishment as the case may be, we need to be vigilant for this exercise not to be perceived as generating additional work and effort without the corresponding benefits.
Competition is real and a drive through philosophy in rail freight still does not exist. Corridors need to be the tool – the test case – to overcome that and all involved need to be motivated to overcome national thinking. She concluded by saying that there is a real urgency for society to ensure rail freight has the tools and support to become the backbone of mobility.