Q&A with Andreas Haas, Swissrail: The vision for rail in Switzerland
At InnoTrans 2022, Global Railway Review Editor, Craig Waters, met with Andreas Haas, Managing Director of the Swissrail Industry Association, to discuss rail’s digital transformation, EDI opportunities within the sector, and how Swiss-made products and solutions can fit the needs of any rail operator.
What do you consider to be the vision of the railway industry in Switzerland?
No matter whether it is infrastructure, rolling stock, train control systems, or overhead lines, Swiss products and solutions can fit the needs of any railway operator.
We have a strong vision for rail in Switzerland. The Rail 2050 long-term strategy set by the Swiss Government includes a vision to improve modal share and contribute to Switzerland’s aims to be a zero-carbon country after 2050. Hence, the most important thing at this time is to make regional public transport more appealing. I share the vision of the 2050 strategy and am excited to see what can be achieved in the years to come, especially with rail corridors to be completed in Europe and the latest technology to improve interoperability.
Switzerland is known worldwide for its innovative mindset, quality products and solutions and well-educated population. With this in mind, there is also a vision to ensure Swiss products can help other countries achieve their rail and mobility goals.
So how can that vision become a reality?
Switzerland is a small country and we must avoid having an ‘island mentality’ where only solutions built in Switzerland remain in Switzerland. No matter whether it is infrastructure, rolling stock, train control systems, or overhead lines, Swiss products and solutions can fit the needs of any railway operator. The solutions can be scaled-up and exported to other countries.
Also, Swissrail is working closely with SBB (the Swiss national railways company) and other rail sector players, on areas such as progressing interoperability and bringing advances to ETCS – especially to improve technology affordability.
What recent achievements have there been in the digital transformation of railways in Switzerland, and what do you consider to be a challenge that might need to be overcome in the near future?
Digitalisation is making a big impact, having much power to transform our industry.
Digitalisation is not something new. It has been around for perhaps 30 years now, but it is still a key word in the rail industry as it presents opportunities to harness innovation. For me, digitalisation is part of my everday, but it does continue to bring opportunities – especially for the connecting and exchanging of data. This will enable the rail sector to leap forward in its knowledge of datasets and how to convert data into meaningful information. Converting data, and understand what information can be extracted from it is important, but is an ongoing element of digitalisation.
Digitalisation is making a big impact, having much power to transform our industry. Processes in the rail industry can be both complex and repetitive and we have to be honest – do human beings perform best in repetitive tasks and processes? So digital transformation plays a key role in the future of rail – an industry which can sometimes be slow to adapt.
What are your thoughts on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the rail sector?
The industry does have some problems with diversity to overcome, but things are moving in the right direction.
The rail industry needs to work hard on improving its image. It is an industry that can offer a great career path, and one that can give an individual the chance to work in an industry that is meaningful – both to economies and the impact rail has on people’s lives – but also on the future of sustainability.
Today in the rail industry, artificial intelligence (AI) is being used, there is interesting hardware, software, lots of exciting technologies making their way into rail’s complex operational networks. All this needs to be presented to the younger generations, and promoted by universities, as an exciting industry to get into.
The industry does have some problems with diversity to overcome, but things are moving in the right direction. As an association, we are pushing to get rail’s outdated image changed – it is not an industry just for males. I’m excited about the future of diversity in rail.
The theme of InnoTrans 2022 is the ‘future of mobility’, so what does that look like for you?
…we need to move forward in the creation of high-speed and cross-border networks, really harnessing the opportunities that interoperability can bring.
The future of mobility will be one that offers people a variety of modal options. For rail, we need to move forward in the creation of high-speed and cross-border networks, really harnessing the opportunities that interoperability can bring.
Transportation needs to be more efficient, more accessible and more affordable. Efficiency gains can be made with the opportunities around automated networks to bring more capacity to lines. Accessibility gains can be made by extending rail networks to more remote areas, making it more convenient for people to access and travel by train. If this cannot be achieved, then we at least need to ensure rail networks can be accessed via other mobility, making rail part of the multimodal chain.
What do you hope to learn and take away most from being at InnoTrans 2022?
InnoTrans is always about the opportunities to meet new people and have meaningful discussions to understand that we are not alone with our ambitions.
InnoTrans is always about the opportunities to meet new people and have meaningful discussions to understand that we are not alone with our ambitions. Problems with mobility are not just localised to us in Switzerland, they are worldwide challenges. I especially enjoy having these exchanges with colleagues and hearing international points of view.
For Swissrail, as the association of Swiss industrial companies who are active in the mobility sector, we represent the interests of more than 120 members, and we are passionate to promote the image of our industry at home and abroad. Switzerland has the potential to export a lot more of our technology and industry expertise – on a global scale – and the opportunity for us to showcase this at InnoTrans is very important.