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Rail Freight’s Role in Combating Climate Change: Insights from the UIP ‘Keepers’ Summit

Rail Freight’s Role in Combating Climate Change: Insights from the UIP ‘Keepers’ Summit
photo: RAILTARGET Archive/Rail Freight’s Role in Combating Climate Change: Insights from the UIP ‘Keepers’ Summit
16 / 06 / 2023

UIP – the International Union of Wagon Keepers in cooperation with its French member association AFWP welcomed 120 rail freight stakeholders from around Europe to its annual flagship conference - the ‘Keepers’ Summit’ - on 15 June 2023 in Nice, France.

The discussions focused on how to leverage rail freight’s strong green credentials to mitigate climate change and at the same time appeal to customers and attract young talent. The panellists and the audience were unanimous: rail freight has an important role to play in our society’s future but it also needs to transform itself.

In the quest for transformation, former UIP President Dr. Heiko Fischer invited the audience to look at the past to better prepare for the future. As a leading force behind the creation of the GCU – the General Contract of Use – Mr Fischer pointed out the important role of private wagon keepers in developing solutions for rail freight. As a man of conviction and vision, he always set great store by the need to innovate and transform rail freight to respond to the future challenges and expectations of customers and society. The audience recognised with a standing ovation the commitment and achievements of Dr. Fischer who steered the works of UIP as President for 11 years.

Mr Joris D’Inca – Global Head of Logistics at international management consulting firm Oliver Wyman – confirmed in his keynote speech the necessity for rail freight to adapt to evolving customers’ requirements: “Customers expect complete transparency throughout the transport chain. They place the most value on the availability of real-time information & end-to-end corridor management. Only by adapting to these requirements will rail freight be able to win share from trucking and play a larger role in helping combat climate change.”

The expert panel moderated by Ms Emilie Soulez and composed of Mr Charles Puech d'Alissac (VIIA / Naviland), Mr Paul Mazataud (SNCF Réseau) and Mr Stéphane Gavard (Streem) provided a deep dive into the elements at the heart of the necessary transformation to respond to the new expectations. Mr Mazataud confirmed the needs and intentions of SNCF Reseau to provide more visibility on maintenance works and also the plans of RNE to increase flexibility by adapting the timetabling process. Mr Puech D’Alissac highlighted the elements and advantages of combined transport and the business model behind the activities of Naviland and VIIA. He pointed out the progress made in digitalising the interface with customers and encourages all stakeholders to double the efforts on digitalising as well the interfaces between the rail freight actors. Mr Gavard provided some insights about wagon innovation both in terms of concept and industrial building but elaborated as well on Streem’s project to develop skills and knowledge within the industry.

Finally, Mr David Zindo, CEO of Streem Group and newly elected UIP President concluded with a promise: to support the transformation with clear priorities while ensuring freight wagon keepers and associations can build on the successes of the past to increase rail freight’s attractiveness and competitiveness. He underlined the importance of the work of UIP and the national associations which act as consolidated voices and a link to the local and European political institutions.

“Our societies need to understand the unique selling proposition of rail freight as crucial means to decarbonize the transport sector. We, as a system, need to improve our offer in order to respond to customers’ requirements but also to attract and train young talents,” said David Zindo.

Source: UIP