On 6 December, the day prior to its 93rd General Assembly, UIC successfully held a High-Level Panel dedicated to the theme “For a Sustainable, Integrated, Connected, International Chain of Mobility”. This event took place at the Automobile Club de France in Paris in the presence of representatives of UIC members and various organisations.
As the moderator of this high-level event, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director General of UIC, reminded the audience at the opening that the objective was to to debate, thanks to the participation of prominent speakers from the institutional, the transport as well as the digital world, on the main challenges that the global rail sector has to face in the current period and the future. Continuous progress and innovation should enable railways to fully play their role as an essential actor of an effective and sustainable Chain of Mobility. He then invited the six speakers to deliver their message on these trends and challenges.
As the first speaker, Dr Nancy Vandycke, Program Manager of the Sustainability Mobility for All - SuM4All - initiative and Economic Advisor at the World Bank, highlighted the importance of mobility in our lives. She explained that potentially, transport can transform lives. But that in reality, the mobility system is off track, with a disconnection between ambition and reality. She stated: “we all share a vision of what was sustainable mobility”. She underlined the importance of capitalizing on changing in technologies as well as the necessity to change the perception on Accessibility, Safety, Gender.
Dr Young Tae Kim, Secretary-General of the International Transport Forum ITF (at Paris based OECD) stressed in his introduction the essential importance of Safety and Security, Digitalisation, Universal Access, Decarbonisation, Connectivity. He presented rail as an essential part of the transport system, but also called for a holistic system and underlined the need of a paradigm shift in the transport world, from a modal to an intermodal approach, from a supply driven to a demand driven mobility system.
Don Upson, Co-Founder, Chairman of the CES Government (Las Vegas), delivered an inspiring speech about the evolution of technology and how to transform the railway system with focuses on smart city, connectivity, interoperability. “Digitalisation is on the way” and the rail transport sector can take advantage from all the progress and innovation taking place in the digital world.
Bibop Gresta, Co-Founder and Chairman of Hyperloop Transportation Technology presented the disrupting Hyperloop transportation system. He presented in particular the new Hyperloop passenger transportation capsule based on a new experience and a different concept of rail moving. This unique system with the new capsule is getting a reality. Bibop Gresta insisted on the fact that Hyperloop is open to cooperation and partnerships with the rail transport world.
Gianluigi Vittorio Castelli, new President of Italian Railways FS Italiane and UIC Chairman, described the objectives and current challenges for the rail sector, in particular the global rail sector represented in UIC. Digitalisation, however, is not an end in itself: it should be viewed rather as a shift to a new technological base similar, to a certain extent, to the move towards the electrification of the rail system in the last century. Digitalisation, in fact, underpins all other technological advances, some of which, as we have seen, are already being deployed by UIC members worldwide in a great variety of areas including automation, intermodal and logistics integration, operations management, energy management, customer-centricity of passenger and freight solutions, and others. He stressed that mobility is strongly impacted by technologies and concluded: “We need massive investments in infrastructures for safety”.
As the last speaker, Ambassador Jean-Daniel Tordjman, President of the Club of Ambassadors and Chairman of the think tank Cercle des Nouveaux Mondes, presented the New Silk Roads and China’s One Belt One Road initiative as illustrations of completely integrated systems. He underlined the need to organise the future partnerships between two worlds, even more between two different visions of the world.
The UIC Director General warmly thanked all the speakers for the inspiring content of their presentations. The last question to all speakers was: “How do you see the next challenges and opportunities in connection with the digital revolution?” He mentioned in this context the activity of “the UIC Digital Platform that goes from mitigation to adaptation to demonstration.”