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From Infrastructure to Collaboration: The Pathway to a Modern and Competitive Rail Sector - Key Takeaways from the International Railway Summit 2023

From Infrastructure to Collaboration: The Pathway to a Modern and Competitive Rail Sector - Key Takeaways from the International Railway Summit 2023
photo: Intl Railway Summit on Twitter/From Infrastructure to Collaboration: The Pathway to a Modern and Competitive Rail Sector - Key Takeaways from the International Railway Summit 2023
24 / 02 / 2023

In his opening speech at the International Railway Summit 2023, Luigi Ferraris, the CEO of the FS Group, stated that railways have a vital part to play in the transport sector, as they aspire to be the key structure for an integrated and efficient mobility system. This event brought together leading players in the railway industry, who gathered to discuss the challenges and opportunities of this sector in Rome on the second day of the summit.

To acquire a leading role in the transport sector, Ferraris believes it is necessary to modernize existing infrastructure, build new infrastructure, and create conditions to open the railway sector to private investment. The FS Group is working with substantial investments and thanks to an organizational model that can be a good example of collaboration between road and rail businesses.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Matteo Salvini, also testified to the attention the entire Italian government has for the rail sector. The minister stated that the new procurement code would soon be launched, which will be more streamlined, modern, and effective, helping speed up the implementation of works. The Italian government is investing in high-speed rail and wants to bring it to the South, while also investing in regional trains. Salvini expressed the desire to shift a share of freight transport from the road to rail, as it is less environmentally impactful.

Luigi Ferraris stressed the importance of ensuring that various modes of transport work together to create a sustainable multimodal mobility system. Ferraris believes a common vision of synergies in the entire transport sector, with a broad and shared perspective, is needed. The goal is to create a multimodal, sustainable, and reliable travel experience that goes beyond rail travel through an integrated, seamless, and tailored transportation offering. Ferraris believes digitization can be one of the main drivers of this transformation, along with the creation of a simplified ticketing platform.

One of the main challenges for the rail sector is to provide a similar level of flexibility to private cars, according to Ferraris. To achieve this goal, a simplified ticketing platform is required. Ferraris emphasized that the train's environmental sustainability, its inherent characteristic, can still be improved. The electrification rate of the network in Italy is one of the highest in Europe, but the FS Group is still the largest energy consumer in the country. To address this issue, the FS Group has launched a program of self-production of energy from renewable sources that will cover at least 40% of their needs.

Furthermore, environmental protection involves disincentivizing measures toward the modes with the greatest impact in terms of external costs. For example, France has banned air travel for short-haul trips. This decision has highlighted the greater sustainability of rail transport compared to air transport. However, there are still distances that it is unthinkable to cover or do so competitively with rail, so there is room for collaboration. FS's agreements with two international air carriers, Lufthansa and ITA, should be framed in a broad context of collaborations and partnerships with other collective and shared mobility operators, consistent with the objectives of their 2022-2031 Business Plan.

Ferraris also stressed the need to focus on logistics and freight transport where the road sector is their main competitor. The road sector is subject to lower costs than the rail sector. Hence, the rail sector needs to work on improving conditions and make rail services more attractive and grow. The European Commission has set a goal of increasing rail freight traffic by 50% by 2030 and doubling it by 2050, with an eye on the external costs of mobility, and the risk of seeing up to a million more commercial vehicles on the roads.