Following a decision by the IEA (International Energy Agency) and UIC to publish a new report in January 2019 entitled The Future of Rail which aims to analyse existing railway and energy use, as well as support the transition to a cleaner energy and transport system, the two organisations hosted a joint workshop on 24 September at UIC headquarters in order to combine and consolidate the strategic guidance and technical input of decision-makers and experts from across the globe.
The workshop aimed to reflect on the current state-of-play for railways in different countries and review possible drivers and bottlenecks to enhance rail’s future role, with a special focus on rail transport development in India.
Attending the event were around 80 participants representing the railways, transport authorities, EU institutions, industry and academia.
The workshop was opened by the Executive Director of the IEA, and Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director General of UIC.
Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux said that environmental issues and sustainable mobilty are embedded in the core functions of UIC and form part of its values.
He said: “It is UIC’s responsibility to promote innovation and new developments, provide space for exchanging experience and best practice – this is why we are here today.”
Mr Loubinoux thanked the IEA for helping to organise the workshop and said that international cooperation is the only way to achieve the demanding goals we have set for ourselves.
The IEA gave an initial overview of the day’s workshop, which consisted of four themed sessions, followed by question-and-answer opportunities in between, addressing primarily:
- The current role of rail transport
- The future of rail – drivers and bottlenecks
- Opportunities and challenges for increasing the role of rail
- The role of rail for India’s development objectives
In Session 1, representatives from Italy, Japan, Switzerland and Russia identified the role that rail transport plays today in their countries and described their goals, strategies and projects to support transport and energy policy. They stressed that rail development is vital for overall growth in mobility and that it is important to address the challenges of investing in rail infrastructure and creating the right incentives.
In Session 2, representatives from Europe, South Africa and Korea looked at rail’s outlook, how it can satisfy future demand for passenger and freight transport and overcome the challenges of future deployment. The speakers highlighted the key drivers for the rail industry, notably with regard to urbanisation and environmental concerns. To overcome future challenges, they mentioned technical solutions to reduce energy consumption, developments in energy management to improve the energy efficiency of urban transport networks, how to increase rail capacity, offering door-to-door transport chains, and how to improve passenger experience.
Session 3 featured representatives from the UK and a number of European countries. The speakers talked about how we can help increase the role of rail in the transport system of the future. Among the examples mentioned was that of the commuter and regional business in terms of passenger volumes and efficiency in urban areas. They also mentioned the various market segments, comparing high speed rail with aviation and how rail transport can be a real alternative in terms of cost, safety, comfort, time efficiency and environmental performance. The challenges evoked, however, included investment in infrastructure, flexibility and convenience.
In the fourth and final session focusing specifically on the case of India, representatives spoke about key opportunities and bottlenecks for a cleaner and more inclusive Indian railway system. Among the points raised were rail versus road, the passenger and freight business, network capacity enhancement, investment, IT developments and urban rail. With regard to mobility and land planning strategies, projects included high speed rail lines which would make better use of land and be more energy efficient. The issue of the transport sector’s role in carbon emission reduction in India was also addressed, as well as future strategies for increasing rail’s market share.
The sessions concluded with a round-the-table discussion chaired by the IEA of the key issues and messages that should be included as advice to policy makers in the forthcoming IEA/UIC publication. These included the areas of freight productivity, sustainability targets and emissions forecasting, infrastructure funding, marketing issues, customer service, modal integration, societal changes, and government-backed policies.
The meeting ended with a few words by the UIC panel, who thanked the participants for attending and the IEA for their co-organisation.