Rail industry predictions for 2017

Posted: 3 January 2017 | | No comments yet

Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director General of the UIC, speaks to Global Railway Review about the standout rail industry moments of 2016 and gives his predictions for 2017.

Rail industry predictions for 2017

Looking back at 2016, in your opinion what are the standout rail industry projects and developments of the year?

2016 was a very important year for many reasons and in the transport sector as well. Beyond all the developments and investments – whether for new infrastructure or renovation, 2016 was the year of COP22, which has been the COP of action put in place after the vision of COP21, and the transport sector is very much affected by sustainable mobility and development and has put in practice a number of concrete actions for mitigation and decarbonisation. The rail sector in particular has developed a number of technical projects and has supported, along with all UIC members, the declaration to reduce CO2 emissions, energy consumption, to accompany a shift to the rail mode in the years to come. 

What are your rail industry predictions for 2017?

2017 will need to be a year in which a number of strategies and decisions are implemented, in particular in the field of sustainable mobility, as indicated in the UN report of the High Level Group at the end of 2016. A number of projects are also being developed in both developed and developing countries in Europe and in the world to build new infrastructure and in particular to complete the East-West and North-South corridors linking the European and Asian markets. Also, research and innovation is to become a focus of interest for a number of manufacturers and operators through the concrete beginning of the Shift2Rail programme.  Other actions will of course be to develop new strategies of services in a digital or digitalising world, where the marriage between informationisation and industrialisation needs to become a priority. This will boost a number of actions and collaboration with the eco-system around the railways and the various start-ups interested in the digital revolution in our sector. UIC has developed through its Digital Platform and Digital Progress Paper a number of ideas to open, share and connect with the members. This will also be one of the sector’s main points of interest in the years to come.

“Research and innovation is to become a focus of interest for a number of manufacturers and operators through the concrete beginning of the Shift2Rail programme”

Do you think implementing new technologies and the use of big data will be of growing importance within the industry for both passengers and operators in 2017?

Obviously in this respect data is the key – not only the collection of data, but also the four “Cs”:  Collection, Connection, Control and Correction. This will be very important to improve the productivity and service to customers – whether freight or passenger – for better fluidity of information and the development of international services.

In your opinion, what projects are likely to draw attention in 2017?

Around the world we see that a number of developed countries are focusing their strategy on the renovation of existing networks in order to improve the productivity and services of these networks inherited from the past. In other countries and developing countries where we see a lot of new infrastructure being considered, this is a very good omen for the role of rail transport in the mobility of goods and people and the social and economic development of the world.

What obstacles/challenges do you think the industry will need to overcome in the year ahead?

Obviously all of these projects will need a lot of investment, and with financial difficulties around the world this will be a challenge for rail operators, financial stakeholders and political decision-makers. These challenges can be summarised in the five “Is” which are the basic strategic drivers for all transport initiatives. Infrastructure is the key to any mobility. It needs investment in the long-term and has a slow return, which means that these investments and technology will need a lot of innovation. And whether in the technology itself or in the financial schemes, with open possibilities between public and private funding, these innovations will need intelligence increasingly from the younger generations from universities and start-ups that will bring the creativity and the reactivity that the transport and the rail sector need most. And finally the fifth challenge is the intermodality and the integration of modes so that society can benefit from the best of each in good complementarity to reduce the transport logistics chain for both passengers and goods.