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Exclusive interview with Hubert Meronk – new CEO of Siemens Mobility in Poland

Exclusive interview with Hubert Meronk – new CEO of Siemens Mobility in Poland
photo: Siemens mobility press materials/Hubert Meronk, the new CEO of Siemens Mobility in Poland
01 / 03 / 2022

From the beginning of January 2022, Hubert Meronk took over as CEO of Siemens Mobility in Poland, replacing Krzysztof Celiński, retiring after almost 50 years of professional work in the railway industry. We are talking with the new CEO about the company's development plans.

How did the change in the post of the chairman of the company take place in Siemens Mobility? Have you adapted to your new position as the head of Siemens Mobility Poland?

We treat the change as evolution and another step towards strengthening Poland's position in the Siemens Mobility structure in Central and Eastern Europe. We emphasize digital solutions in traffic management, safety, planning, and monitoring, hence the emergence of a new person with solid experience in IT strategies. Such a course is the fundamental future of Polish railways and modern Siemens Mobility products and services.

I've graduated in computer science in Norway and the USA. I have extensive knowledge in railways, process modeling, building, and implementing digitization strategies and IT systems on the Polish and foreign markets. Realized, among others, IT projects for the Norwegian Railways, and in recent years, he was a member of the management board in Warsaw Metro (2017-2020). I have developed my professional experience working in leading positions for Capgemini in Norway, VingCard in the USA and Poland Bank PKO BP, Bank BOŚ Bank, LOT Polish Airlines, T-Systems Polska, and Bank Pocztowy.

Siemens Mobility has been on the Polish market for more than 30 years. How can you describe the company's presence in this country?

Poland is strategically important for the Trans European Transport Network, connecting Central, North-East, and South-East Europe, also playing an essential role in achieving the EU climate target of becoming climate neutral by 2050. Poland has the third largest railroad network in Europe, with about 18 thousand kilometers of tracks. Only 63% of the rail tracks are electrified. Due to the overall modernization needs, almost 12 billion euros should be invested in mobility projects in the upcoming years.

Siemens Mobility has been operating on the Polish market for over 30 years, implementing projects in rolling stock, railroad infrastructure, service, and components. The company has delivered, among others, the first Inspiro metro vehicles in Warsaw and Combino tram to Poznań and currently operates very strongly in the area of components and multi-system locomotives, being a leader in both these markets.

Now it's time for the next step. We want to implement our other rolling stock solutions, including regional and high-speed trains and electrification and signaling systems, on a large scale. With our rolling stock portfolio, service offerings, and infrastructure solutions, we can successfully contribute to the modernization of the rail transport system in Poland.

Our long-term focus is also on digitalization, cyber security, and the emergence of modern systems that enable more manageable and more efficient travel planning for both passengers and operators.

Is it possible to determine specifics of the Polish railway industry? Are there any main differences compared to the other EU countries?  

It depends on the adopted business model, but Polish railway companies are ordering mostly electric multiple units, trams, locomotives, and wagons. The EU climate package will significantly reduce short-distance flights due to increased CO2 emissions. This package will contribute to increased rail traffic, which will eventually develop and expand, for example, the night train market. In addition, there is the 4th railway package, liberalization, and unification of the European railway market, which will also include Poland.

Your education is in IT, and you have a lot of experience with digitalization and information systems. How is the railway in our region going to change? What can we expect from railway modernization and digitalization?

Nowadays, it is not enough to offer a train or a locomotive. Siemens Mobility provides comprehensive digital solutions along with cybersecurity services to minimize the risk of losses but, above all, to ensure passenger safety. Remember that it is the carrier responsible for the protection and life of passengers.

We offer digital solutions of MaaS (Mobility as a Service) services for passengers, suggesting and planning how to get the optimal way from point A to point B, e.g. from home or work to the destination. In recent years, we have invested in IT companies developing software based on AI / ML (Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning) technology for travel planning from both the passenger and the operator. We create tools supporting MaaS as a comprehensive computerization and information system, regardless of the type of transport: tram, metro, bus, train. One of our Padam Mobility companies offers a trip planning tool widely used in and around Paris.

Digitization can go far from optimizing the conductor's work, who sees that he does not have to check the ticket of the passenger who has checked in through the application, to the systems ensuring the safety of travelers. Trains have cameras, and artificial intelligence will automatically indicate an empty seat or whether a wheelchair passenger has boarded. The software-based on AI / ML technology recognizes and warns in a situation of aggressive behavior of a passenger on the train. Such systems can identify possible terrorists among passengers or identify potential suicides at stations and platforms.

Siemens Mobility is now working on two new rail projects: Mireo B (battery propulsion) and Mireo H (hydrogen propulsion). Which one of those do you think will be the primary solution for a green railway future?

We offer a technologically advanced and energy-efficient vehicle for regional traffic – Mireo in a battery-powered (Mireo B) and hydrogen-powered (Mireo H) version. The speed of our hydrogen train is 160 km / h, the range in the two-section version is 600 km, and in the three-section version is 1000 km. Refueling does not take more than 15 minutes, the same as refueling multiple diesel units. However, a hydrogen-powered vehicle alone is not enough, and the accompanying infrastructure is equally important. DB and the Ministry of Transport of Baden Württemberg, we are implementing such a comprehensive project in Tübingen - from production, through express refueling and hydrogen storage, to delivery of a hydrogen train. The vehicle will run between Tübingen, Horben, and Pforzheim, replacing the diesel multiple units that run there. We estimate that changing the drive will save about 330 tons of CO2 in one year. Hydrogen trains in Poland are the future.

As the energy prices rise, some transport companies are going back to diesel locomotives. Could it mean that leaving diesel for other propulsion systems was too hasty? Some Central and Eastern European countries want to resign or limit the so-called Green Deal. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Rail transportation is by far the most environmentally friendly means of mass transportation. Sustainability is at the heart of our business. We aim for eco-friendly alternative drives such as batteries and hydrogen and hybrid solutions for the diesel-electric ride in our portfolio, which also contributes to the environment, such as the Vectron Dual Mode locomotive.

This vehicle is designed for freight transport and can use diesel and electric propulsion. The new locomotives are powered by electricity on electrified sections of the line, which saves fuel and reduces maintenance costs. For example - Vectron Dual Mode hybrid locomotives ordered by DB CARGO will save around 8 million liters of fuel and 17,000 tons of CO2 annually.

Poland realizes the most significant infrastructure project Solidarity Transport Hub (CPK). However, there are some skeptical views, among others, that the project is too megalomaniac, poorly designed, and unrealistic for timely implementation. Do you personally believe in the success of this project? Does Siemens Mobily plan to join the realization part of the STH project?

The Solidarity Transport Hub (STH) project greatly interests Siemens Mobility. We have participated in the technical dialogue with NCBiR, and we are in current contact with partners from STH about cooperation in particular phases.

Siemens Mobility could find itself in this project in two key areas - providing equipment and facilities for the new railroad lines, including the electrification system and the remote control system, and of course in the rolling stock part - creating vehicles that would run to the STH and throughout Poland.

We envisage cooperation with Polish producers to develop Polish industry and technological thought, as was the case with the production of Inspiro subway trains with NEWAG from Nowy Sącz.