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RFE and SHIFT2RAIL join for European rail sector success

Posted: 26 September 2013 | | No comments yet

Founded in 2011 by 15 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from across the parliamentary committees, Rail Forum Europe1 (RFE) is an international non-profit association that brings together EU decision-makers and the rail sector to achieve a better understanding of rail-related issues. RFE is currently supported by 20 full member MEPs and 41 associate member companies or associations directly involved in the rail sector. In an interview for Global Railway Review, President of RFE Brian Simpson and Executive Secretary Leonardo Dongiovanni provide an insight into the aims and vision of the association, plus comment on the importance of the SHIFT2RAIL research and development initiative.

“Rail Forum Europe plays an important role in bringing together all the stakeholders in the railway industry with politicians to formulate rail policy throughout the whole of Europe,” explains Brian. He continues: “RFE covers every aspect of railway life and provides a forum for expert debate that is both informative and influential. The success of RFE has been greater than our expectations when this excellent initiative was first conceived. Our task in the future is to build on this success and keep railway issues at the forefront of the political debate.”

Founded in 2011 by 15 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from across the parliamentary committees, Rail Forum Europe1 (RFE) is an international non-profit association that brings together EU decision-makers and the rail sector to achieve a better understanding of rail-related issues. RFE is currently supported by 20 full member MEPs and 41 associate member companies or associations directly involved in the rail sector. In an interview for Global Railway Review, President of RFE Brian Simpson and Executive Secretary Leonardo Dongiovanni provide an insight into the aims and vision of the association, plus comment on the importance of the SHIFT2RAIL research and development initiative.“Rail Forum Europe plays an important role in bringing together all the stakeholders in the railway industry with politicians to formulate rail policy throughout the whole of Europe,” explains Brian. He continues: “RFE covers every aspect of railway life and provides a forum for expert debate that is both informative and influential. The success of RFE has been greater than our expectations when this excellent initiative was first conceived. Our task in the future is to build on this success and keep railway issues at the forefront of the political debate.”

Founded in 2011 by 15 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from across the parliamentary committees, Rail Forum Europe1 (RFE) is an international non-profit association that brings together EU decision-makers and the rail sector to achieve a better understanding of rail-related issues. RFE is currently supported by 20 full member MEPs and 41 associate member companies or associations directly involved in the rail sector. In an interview for Global Railway Review, President of RFE Brian Simpson and Executive Secretary Leonardo Dongiovanni provide an insight into the aims and vision of the association, plus comment on the importance of the SHIFT2RAIL research and development initiative.

“Rail Forum Europe plays an important role in bringing together all the stakeholders in the railway industry with politicians to formulate rail policy throughout the whole of Europe,” explains Brian. He continues: “RFE covers every aspect of railway life and provides a forum for expert debate that is both informative and influential. The success of RFE has been greater than our expectations when this excellent initiative was first conceived. Our task in the future is to build on this success and keep railway issues at the forefront of the political debate.”

RFE is governed by a Managing Board (the President of which is Brian Simpson – Chairman of the TRAN Committee – and Vice-Presidents Michael Cramer (TRAN Committee) and Gesine Meissner (TRAN Committee). Full membership is exclusively reserved to MEPs, but associate members also play a key role in the life of the association as they sponsor RFE events and propose topics and speakers.

The results of the first two years of activities of RFE are excellent: the role of RFE is positively perceived by stakeholders and decision-makers and its events are now a widely recognised rendezvous in the Brussels arena that provides an unmissable opportunity to have fruitful exchanges on hot topics for the European rail community.

Leonardo explains the role of RFE further: “We organise conferences and debates, usually over dinner or breakfast, gathering European policy-makers and experts from the rail sector.

RFE aims to establish an informal platform for dialogue between EU policy-makers and the European rail sector to facilitate the work of interested parties. In other words, we all feel that there is a momentum for rail to play a key role in EU transport policy now and in the future. And of course we want to keep up this momentum. In the future, we plan to extend our field of activities to technical visits to rail transport facilities and the publication and communication of any information likely to interest our members.” RFE events have so far addressed a wide range of topics of interest to the rail community, such as environmental issues, the deployment of the ERTMS, trade relations with non-European countries, infrastructure and rolling stock financ – ing, freight and passenger rights, as well as the very popular topic of the 4th Railway Package.

“Our programme of events is carefully built by MEPs and never loses sight of the dossiers under discussion by the European Institutions,” says Leonardo. “It is no surprise that the European Parliament is the main stage in RFE’s life.”

RFE supports SHIFT2RAIL

On 18 February 2013, a successful RFE event took place to discuss the SHIFT2RAIL proposal for a flagship Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) under Horizon 2020 which is currently being developed by the European rail sector. On that occasion, broad support for the proposal was expressed by rail stakeholders and decisionmakers. The event saw the keynote speeches of Henri Poupart-Lafarge, President of Alstom Transport and Chairman of UNIFE, Manuela Soares, European Commission’s DG RTD Director responsible for Transport and Jean-Eric Paquet, European Commission’s DG MOVE Director for European Mobility Network. The event was sponsored by four RFE members and co-signatories of the SHIFT2RAIL Memorandum of Understanding: Alstom, Ansaldo, Bombardier and Talgo, and gathered around 90 partici – pants, including MEPs, representatives of the European Commission, representatives of Member States and other rail stakeholders.

SHIFT2RAIL is a coordinated, large-scale approach to research and development in the rail industry designed to meet the transport needs of the future. Such an approach requires significant sector-wide joint public-private investment in research in order to encourage collaboration amongst the fragmented rail industry.

“SHIFT2RAIL is indeed a typical example of an initiative that will contribute to make rail transport more efficient and attractive in the near future,” states Leonardo. “For this reason, we are happy to have presented it at one of our latest RFE events and look forward to the involvement of the Rail Forum Europe community in this ambitious initiative.”

Due to its long product lifecycle, the complexity of the interfaces between rail subsystems and the supply industry’s low operating margins, innovation in the rail sector is more difficult to achieve than in other modes of transportation. Nevertheless, rail is broadly acknowledged as being the most sustainable mode of transport, and as the global population swells and environmental and congestion concerns mount, better rail transport is in high demand.

Today, the EU rail supply industry is one of the few sectors in Europe that leads the global market. In fact, it supplies over half of the global demand for rail products and services and created some of the greatest advances in transportation. However, it is already facing stiff competition from other regions, particularly Asia, that do not hesitate to invest in and push their rail industries to compete with rail solutions manufactured in Europe. For this reason, a collaborative and significant investment in R&D is imperative in equipping the European rail industry to meet future transportation needs, and, moreover, keep jobs and nurture sustainable economic growth in Europe. It is worth pointing out that, currently, the sector is responsible for (directly and indirectly,) over 400,000 jobs in Europe.

SHIFT2RAIL was not only conceived with the goal of maintaining European dominance in the global rail supply market, but also with the aim of providing passengers with an attractive transport mode that answers the EU’s calls for a modal shift to rail transport outlined in the European Commission’s 2011 White Paper on transport.

In order to meet the aforementioned ambitious goals, the SHIFT2RAIL JTI seeks to match the EU funds designated for R&D with industry investment in R&D in all areas of rail system: rolling stock, infrastructure, command and control/signalling systems, IT solutions for seamless rail transport for passengers, and freight. The initiative’s promoters propose a total investment of between €800 million and €1 billion, equally funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 Framework for Research and Innovation and the European rail industry, to finance this rail research over a 6-7 year period. It has ambitious targets to double the capacity and achieve a 50% increase in reliability of the European rail system, while reducing its life-cycle costs by half. Also, it is important to point out that the proposal reserves a quarter of the total budget for research institutions, academia, and SME clusters through open calls for R&D proposals, which will guarantee access to the funds for smaller actors.

“SHIFT2RAIL is an important project that not only draws on the expertise and skills that the wider European rail industry has, but will also bring innovation and more investment in our rail network,” explains Brian. “Its goals are ambit – ious, but such ambition is needed if we are to keep Europe as the leading continent in railway technology and innovation.”

SHIFT2RAIL proponents continue to grow support for the initiative in EU Member States and the European Parliament – as their approval is a prerequisite for establishing the Joint Undertaking. Therefore, the positive feedback received during the RFE dinner event of last February can be considered as a promising starting point and a demonstration of trust for this project from the European railway stakeholders.

 

Reference

1. www.rail-forum.eu

 

Biography

Leonardo Dongiovanni is the Executive Secretary of Rail Forum Europe and Public Affairs Manager at UNIFE, the Associa – tion of the European Rail Industry. He has a degree in environmental economics from the University of Pescara (2005). After a traineeship at the United Nations in Vienna (2006), Leonardo took a postgraduate master’s degree in environment, marketing and quality at the Strategies Business School in Rome (2007). In 2008 Leonardo moved to Brussels to work as a political advisor at the Association of European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM), dealing with environmental issues, EU funds and TEN-T. He joined UNIFE in June 2011 and became Executive Secretary of Rail Forum Europe in October 2012.

Brian Simpson was first elected to the European Parliament in June 1989 and has been a member of the Transport and Tourism Committee since becoming an MEP. In 2009 he was appointed Chair of the TRAN Committee and is one of its longest serving members. Brian is also a member of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and a member of the Parliament’s delegation for relations with Australia and New Zealand. A lifelong fan of Rugby League, Brian is Ambassador of the Rugby League European Federation. He is also Vice President of the UK’s Heritage Railways Association.

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