2010: an important year for the evolving role of the FIF

Posted: 10 December 2010 | | No comments yet

2010 has been one step in the evolution of the French Railway Industry Association’s (FIF) missions and roles. In fact, throughout 2010, the FIF has been involved in guiding a number of major founding issues for the rail sector.

2010 has been one step in the evolution of the French Railway Industry Association’s (FIF) missions and roles. In fact, throughout 2010, the FIF has been involved in guiding a number of major founding issues for the rail sector.

2010 has been one step in the evolution of the French Railway Industry Association’s (FIF) missions and roles. In fact, throughout 2010, the FIF has been involved in guiding a number of major founding issues for the rail sector.

These include:

  • Establishing a strategic committee for the rail industry
  • Starting a rail cooperation committee between Germany and France
  • Creating the Objective OFP Association
  • The launch of the MMI (smart multimodal transportation) initiative.

The strategic rail network committee

Between October 2009 and February 2010, the first ‘Industry Round Tables’ were held in France, at the initiative of President Sarkozy.

The first objective of this initiative was to stimulate French industrial activity, improve the industry’s image (especially with recent graduates) and to draw them to these industries, not to mention a strong desire to make ‘strategic’ industries more homogenous and more cohesive.

Last June, Prime Minister François Fillon presented the 11 strategic industries chosen, and the rail industry was at the top of the list.

A strategic industry committee composed of industry players was tasked with setting up the industry’s projects. The Minister of Industry wanted the FIF to help him with guidance.

A number of projects were suggested. Among the ideas were, in no particular order, a thorough review of the industry’s orderer/supplier relationship, improving the process, from innovation to industrial production, or even setting up a true provisional jobs and skills management system (GPEC).

In fact, there is currently a broad consensus in the political and economic world, that rail transport has a lasting future in front of it, not just on a national level but on a European level and even worldwide.

In the context of globalisation and opening markets to competition, it is the very future of a number of national industries that is playing out in most European countries. France is not immune to this problem.

France-Germany rail cooperation

Many factors are leading to the development and strengthening of this cooperation, and not only for the benefit of rail transport, but also for companies and citizens.

Indeed, when looking at the essential objective of European technical and regulatory harmonisation in the rail sector and the backlog of delays accumulated over several decades, the accelerated implementation of France-Germany cooperation on major restructuring plans for the sector stands out.

Faced with bureaucratic, environmental, and technical obstacles and challenges confronting the rail sector, joint actions must be taken, but constantly keeping in mind that this approach must eventually be extended to other European partners.

In fact, rail sector activity and its competitiveness will not develop over the long-term unless all European sector players decide to cooperate on strategic issues such as:

  • Rail R&D financing, particularly for noise reduction
  • Standardising the equipment approval process for EU member states
  • Accelerating the process for developing technical interoperability specifications and technical standards
  • Or issues related to globalisation and, particularly, the emergence of Asian competition and the competitive positioning of European rail industries.

Creating the Objective OFP Association

Industry leaders understand the impact that an effective local rail system has on their companies’ competitiveness. Not to mention the attractiveness of territories, ports and labour markets, of course in compliance with sustainable development principles.

The Local Freight Operators Association (OFP), created in 2009 at the initiative of the French government, are trying to consolidate flows and create single-client, multi-client, or multi-load trains in a given territory or port. These trains, routed by OFPs to exchange platforms, will then be picked up by ‘long distance’ operators.

Therefore, these OFPs participate fully in stimulating rail freight in France and revitalising certain regions, not to mention the fact that they are also job ‘suppliers’ themselves. This is why the FIF participated in and supported the creation of the Objective OFP Association alongside the RFF, CGPME, FNTP as well as ACFCI or TLF, an association formed to promote OFPs and facilitate and support their establishment in France.

The 2MI initiative

This research project, initiated by the French Academy of Technologies, is aimed at creating and developing a voluntary cooperation platform for players concerned by the establishment of smart transport systems and, more broadly, by information technologies at the service of transportation policies oriented towards sustainable development and using public transport. This project relies on the EU’s desire to promote interoperability and interconnection, and thus promoting the efficiency of transport networks, particularly relying on the potentialities of NTICs.

Therefore the FIF has supported the Academy of Technologies since the start of this initiative, and worked to develop a Charter that specifies all of the information and telecommunication technologies for which sector players are committed to facilitating or contributing to their deployment. Furthermore, the FIF signed the Charter during the official launch of the project on 29 September 2010.

So, 2010 has been very eventful for FIF, and these events have helped and sometimes strengthened the Association’s image nationally and throughout Europe.

The new missions taken on by the FIF in 2010 were themselves symbolic of its emerging priorities: making the industrial network more effective and cohesive, accelerating European rail movement and construction, encouraging the creation of rail companies capable of reinvigorating rail freight and, lastly, promoting innovation and making public transport more attractive.

In order to achieve its objectives, FIF was able to develop close relationships and partnerships with most players in the European rail system, which is obligatory for developing a decompartmentalised, harmonised European rail area that alone is able to sustainably make Europe not only a market, but a competitive economic player on the world stage.

About the Author

Jean-Pierre Audoux

Jean-Pierre Audoux is a Doctor in International Economics and is also a graduate in Macro-economics. In 1996, Mr. Audoux was appointed as the new Delegate-General of FIF after a 15 year career in various governmental departments including the Ministry of Industry, the Defence Ministry and the Prime Minister’s office. Mr. Audoux is also the author of books on geo-economics and of numerous articles on the railway sector. For many years he has also been an Associate Professor in economics in advanced studies at colleges such as Paris College of Commerce, The Saint-Cyr Military Academy and the International Public Administration Institute.