CZ/SK verze

Live from IRFC 2022: SŽ, UNIFE and CER managers agree on interoperability, TEN-T and high-speed lines as the theme for Europe

Live from IRFC 2022: SŽ, UNIFE and CER managers agree on interoperability, TEN-T and high-speed lines as the theme for Europe
photo: RAILTARGET/Live from IRFC 2022: Section 1
05 / 10 / 2022

Welcome to our live coverage of IRFC 2022! The first day of the conference started with the opening ceremony, featuring speakers such as Martin Kupka, Minister of Transport of the Czech Republic, Miroslav Fukan, CEO of OLTIS Group and Adina Valean, European Commissioner for Transport, online. Now comes the 1st session of the conference!

10:10 Jiří Svoboda, Director General of the Railway Administration, takes the floor. The contribution of rail to the Green Deal is indisputable because it is green and environmentally friendly. But I would rather focus on standardization and interoperability. Rail within the EU dreams that we recognise that we have crossed a border, but we fail to recognise that we are on a different railway. That is why it is important to work on interoperability and let us think about this topic. So far we are moving in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go. The Czech Republic has the densest rail network in Europe and it is a huge challenge for us to keep it competitive, operational and increase its capacity. The challenge is the increasing supply and we are trying to meet the demands of 126 carriers. The VRT project could help us with the issue of line capacity for freight and passenger traffic. Then the TEN-T network is also another challenge, especially for freight corridors, we need to help freight - the war in Ukraine has shown its importance. I will come back to standardisation and interoperability. From my point of view, we are not achieving complete unity in the energy sector, we do not have unified electricity meters or data. Let us also come together in this respect, it is important. We can achieve energy savings because energy prices harm our lives, both professional and personal. We are also concerned about the safety and we also want ETCS, but we need to unite there too and hold workshops. Finally, I would like to say that I was impressed by the contribution of the Japanese Ambassador and we should cultivate this enthusiasm for the railway.

10:25 We now have a contribution from Walter Goetz, Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Adina Valean. We have had several external shocks in recent years that have adversely affected rail capacity and performance. Nevertheless, the EC would like to achieve all the targets for the Green Deal and the 2050 package. DG MOVE has also not stopped working on integrated rail systems or green railway projects. The TEN-T reform and our action plan will provide the necessary tools to meet these objectives. We are also trying to work on technical standards for trains to achieve greater interoperability, but we are also trying to work with train drivers and attract new people to the rail sector. We must not forget the workers themselves, the people who work on the railways. Standardisation also concerns tickets, which we want to standardise for better cross-border passenger transport. We want to do the same concerning combined transport to make it more efficient. And at InnoTrans 2022, I was fascinated by how many companies presented new technologies and solutions at the fair, because it created a very positive atmosphere at the whole event. In particular, I was intrigued by hydrogen and its use on railways, and I have to agree with the Czech Transport Minister Martin Kupka on this topic. Then on the subject of VRT, too, the EU and the EC fully support this project in the Czech Republic. In general, however, the EU cannot finance everything, but both the Member States and the private sector must give money.

10:40 Philippe Froissard, Head of the Future Urban and Mobility Systems Unit of DG RTD, continues. We have a lot of work to do in the transport sector to meet the Green Deal targets. We want to have zero emissions by 2050, develop a resource-independent economy, preserve the EU's natural capital, protect the health of EU citizens, and at the same time, these objectives must be met fairly and inclusively. The Fit for 55 package includes a target to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030. Another target is the use of renewable and alternative energy sources. At least 35% of Horizon Europe funding will go towards achieving these targets, and we will also support young researchers in the field. Then we need to focus on new technologies, I would almost say radical technologies, which will make a significant difference. Last but not least, we also need to work on digitising the infrastructure and thus making it more environmentally friendly. The green railway can then be helped by the ERU, which has EUR 600 million available from the EU and can thus support the necessary development of the railway in terms of digitalisation, sustainability or automation. Then also with the aforementioned hydrogen. There are many challenges ahead in transport, but together we can overcome them.

10:50 Alberto Mazzola, Executive Director of CER, takes the microphone. Rail is a natural fit for decarbonising transport, currently contributing only 0.4% to total transport emissions. In contrast, roads account for 71.7% of all emissions. Rail's energy efficiency is also the best, consuming only 1.8% of the EU's total energy consumption. Compared to the road, it is seven times more energy efficient and air transport even 15 times more efficient. In short, rail leads in environmental performance compared to other modes of transport. It can also de facto earn its way. Yet there has been no significant change in the modes of transport used, and what could help? The TEN-T network will also help with the Green Deal objectives. TEN-T will support the development of VRT, interoperability, digitalisation or the implementation of ERTMS on the rail. The benefits are many, and we may not see them today or tomorrow. But only in a few years and the benefits of this project will be felt by all of us. One of the important components will be digitalisation - for example, DCM (Digital Capacity Management) or DAC (Digital Automatic Coupler). To meet the objectives of the Fit for 55 packages, emissions trading within the EU for other transport modes (road, air, water) will need to be redesigned. And perhaps a regulation on the change in kerosene taxation.

11:05 Philippe Citroen, Director General of UNIFE, takes to the podium. The main contribution of rail to the Green Deal is that it can reduce the emissions it produces while increasing its energy efficiency. We should focus on strengthening night, cross-border and long-distance trains, and that is why UNIFE wants to contribute to the railway action plan and its efficiency. It should focus on ensuring sufficient funding, interoperability, and digitalisation or making rail more competitive with other modes of transport. We are pleased that night trains are returning to Europe. The priorities for the Fit for 55 package are then the Energy Taxation Directive (ETD) and achieving less taxation on electricity, the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR) to secure and increase the number of hydrogen and battery trains in the EU and, last but not least, to ensure that railways have the opportunity to access EU funding as part of green investments. UNIFE also gives regular feedback to ERA and the EC on the 4th railway package, and there are successes - a more harmonised EU approach or closer cooperation with ERA staff. I would now like to turn to the ERTMS in the Czech Republic, which is very advanced in its implementation, and I am very happy about that. Then we are also working with ER JU, and we aim to create a European single architecture for rail infrastructure, a harmonised technical infrastructure and, most importantly, to have leading railway experts involved in the System Pillar.

This concludes the 1st section!