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UIC Board Meeting Addresses Electrification and Alternative Traction Power in Railways

UIC Board Meeting Addresses Electrification and Alternative Traction Power in Railways
photo: Archive/UIC Board Meeting Addresses Electrification and Alternative Traction Power in Railways
28 / 03 / 2023

Last week, at the invitation of the Hungarian Railways, a meeting was held in Budapest of the Board of Directors of the Region of the International Union of Railways (UIC), an organization of companies involved in rail transportation and representing them internationally, chaired by Krzysztof Mamiński, Chairman of the Board of PKP S.A.

The board meeting discussed, among other issues, the codification system for combined transport in connection with the European Commission's decision to ask the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CEN-CENELEC) to incorporate the current CT codification system (based on UIC IRS - International Railway Solutions) into EN standards. The European Commission's Directorate General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) believes that direct reference to UIC IRS in the TSI is not possible, as this would lead to a violation of accessibility and transparency requirements. UIC's European members disagreed with the above actions and approach of the European Commission and decided to hold discussions with the EC.

Alternative sources of traction power were also discussed. Roughly 60% of the European rail network is already electrified, with 80% of the traffic that runs on them. There are no technical obstacles to further electrification, but the cost of upgrading and electrifying the existing rail infrastructure and the associated expected reduction in carbon emissions should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Electrification makes the most economic sense on busy lines, including from an emissions reduction perspective. On low-traffic lines, there are currently no proven cost-effective solutions to replace diesel-powered trains. The UIC is currently working to identify the best alternatives to diesel on non-electrified lines for both carriers and infrastructure managers, including in terms of the availability of solutions on the market; potential risks associated with them and appropriate countermeasures; and the impact of these measures on railroad operations. The UIC is working on three types of alternative propulsion: the use of hydrogen in railroad operations; the use of traction batteries (batteries); the use of current internal combustion engines with alternative fuel (analysis in terms of available power and fuel consumption, reliability, emission levels). In this context, the UIC is working with the industry to identify possible solutions and their impact on train behaviour in traffic. Thus, four alternative fuels are currently being analyzed: biofuels, natural gas in the form of liquefied petroleum gas, ammonia, and hydrogen.

The meeting also discussed a project titled DP-Rail, implemented with PKP CARGO's participation, which was submitted for funding in the second CEF call on January 18. It aims to create an open platform to facilitate efficient and standardized communication between all stakeholders in Europe in the area of rail freight for operational, non-commercial data. The competitiveness of the rail sector is based on its ability to build an effective international offering. Approximately 60% of international rail transport involves more than two carriers, but only 25% of current communication interfaces are standardized, leading to suboptimal data-sharing configurations between rail freight participants. While a lot of critical data is being created through increasingly sophisticated technological solutions, a widely supported platform for sharing it does not yet exist. Old systems prevail, and most digital exchanges take place only between larger rail companies. Smaller players, with limited IT capabilities, find it difficult to connect to and participate in the aforementioned digital ecosystem. This results in the existence of data silos and untapped business potential for data-driven innovation. Hence, a key outcome of the project will be a data platform (RU-RU) providing easily accessible TAF-TSI-compliant solutions for the railroad's core operational processes. Many European freight carriers are supporting the project either directly as investors or indirectly through Raildata and UIC.

In addition to the discussion of assistance to Ukraine, the agenda of the meeting also included a discussion of further activities within the UIC among the members of the UIC Europe Region regarding the review of the organization's projects in terms of benefits and added value for the members (this is one of the goals set by the UIC President to the organization's Director General in 2023), as well as the possibility of increasing their efficiency and involving them more in the above-mentioned projects based on the recent findings of the working group established and dedicated to this task, run jointly by the UIC and the PKP Delegation in Brussels. PKP's proposal was accepted unanimously by both the UIC management team and the members of the Regional Assembly of Europe. The survey of UIC Region Europe members will be conducted based on the methodology and survey questions made available to the UIC by PKP S.A., and recommendations resulting from the survey are to be introduced into the UIC's 2023-2025 action plan.

The European Management Committee also decided that Marin Forbischer will serve as head of the Europe Region until the end of the year (a competition for the position will be held in June). Meanwhile, during the gala dinner, a representative of the PKP in Brussels expressed thanks on behalf of the UIC President to outgoing UIC Europe Region head Francisco Cardoso des Rios and Simon Fletcher, UIC director and Europe Region coordinator, who is leaving after 20 years of service in the organization's structures, appreciating the special contribution to the development of the organization.

Source: PKP S.A.