Live blog RailTech Europe day 1: European Year of Rail

RailTech Europe has officially started! On the first day, many topics such as international train travel, the TEN-T network and the Trans Europ Express were discussed. In this liveblog, you can read about some of the developments of day one. RailTech Europe is the biggest online trade show of the European railway sector with participants from 90 countries worldwide.

Day 1 of RailTech Europe is at its end, want to see an impression of the day? Watch the recap below!

15:00 Passenger perspective and competition in rail

To realise a modal shift, ticketing for trains needs to be made easier, passenger rights secured and overall look at the system from the perspective of the passenger, says Delphine Grandsart, researcher at the European Passenger Federation (EPF). What is the most difficult to get on the agenda for? “The willingness to collaborate is sometimes a sensitive topic, but data exchange is necessary”.

From the passengers” view, it is always good to have a choice, in general prices will go down and the quality improves, says Arrien Kruyt from the European Passenger Federation. What could public authorities do? “Do something about the very high access charges, first of all.”

Nick Brooks from AllRail: “We need a seemless network of cross-border rail just like on a national level, and competetion is important for this”. He would for example to finally see another operator next to Eurostar in the Channel tunnel.

14:00 Creating modal shift: TEN-T and Trans-Europ Express 2.0

“In the digital age, customers want to know where there goods are, more than 50 percent of rail freight traffic is cross-border.”, says Chaterine Trautmann, European Coordinator for the North Sea-Baltic TEN-T Corridor. What would the railways in Europe look like if there wasn’t a TEN-T network? “The systems would be only national, with less competition but also less cooperation to reach a digital transformation.” Rail Baltica is important for creating a connection between East and West, but the economical value is key. The target for completion is 2030.

The TransEuropeExpress TEE is a symbol of European cohesion. With the TEE 2.0, this will be revived again., says Florian Böhm, Head of Secretariat of the Federal Government Commissioner for Rail Transport, German Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. It consists of three components: an intensified bi- and multinational cooperation to coordinate timetables for a border-crossing network with more connections between hubs and nodes, the ‘Europatakt’. It will also offer direct connections on longer routes, integrating existing national routes and a network of night trains.

“There are lines that already exists, but a new idea is to connect existing into a longer connections without need of changing trains on the journey.”

There are some questions from the audience why some cities are ‘skipped’, and why the routes presented are chosen like this. If stakeholders work together, the concept can be altered and based on the timetables, more connections between European hubs and economical centers can be made, reacts Florian Böhm.

13.45 Tech Stage:  A circular railway

From the rail infrastructure mine in Hilversum, Akkie Stomphorst and Erno Chevallier from Voestalpine RailPro talk about the reuse of materials in railways in a video item. The company have a database of all available materials and working towards a circular system.

In the studio, they say that reusing materials is taking off. “You already see it more than for example two years ago”

12.30 Green initiatives

On-board energy metering enables energy savings Bart van der Spiegel, expert in Energy Management at
Infrabel. 20 years into the future, all trains will hopefully have energy meters, says van der Spiegel, and all data is exchanged among companies as well.
Automatic Train Operation is also a means for transporters to drive more energy-efficient. An energy measurer does not in itself provide the energy savings, but it is a necessary condition to only pay for the actual consumption.

Martina Zeiner, University assistant at TU Graz and Víctor Barrena Cárdenas, System Engineer at Plasser & Theurer talk about fossil free future of track work machinery. More than 60 percent of the world’s network is not electrified, for which sustainable solutions needed, says Martina Zeiner. There are many battery-powered prototypes now, which is a great sign.

But what about hydrogen? Battery is by far more established, but there are also hydrogen prototypes. But there needs to be infrastructure for that to supply this, and it is still at a very early stage. This is something that should be looked at together with infrastructure managers.

A modular design of track machinery is the key to the future, to be able to be flexible for in the future. on-board battery solutions are preferred for machinery with energy demands in the lower segment, and hydrogen for machinery that has higher energy consumption.

12:00 ProRail Stage: Miguel Loos, Architect & senior advisor for architecture and urbanism, Bureau Spoorbouwmeester

There must be an etiquette for the successful cooperation between the different stakeholders in an urban station area. This says Miguel Loos, Architect & senior advisor for architecture and urbanism, at Spoorbouwmeester today during RailTech.

There is some residual space around train stations, but this is limited in view of the ambitions that exist. The challenge is to give everything a place, as the ambitions of the stakeholders are not always aligned.

That is why work has been done on so-called building blocks for an optimal layout of a station area. How do you arrange good access for cyclists from the station area, what is the best place for a taxi rank and where is the space for shared transport? Such matters must be brought to the fore.

The most important recommendations of Bureau Spoorbouwmeester for the layout of a station area are the following: anchor the station area in the city center and ensure that accessibility is guaranteed, also in the future. Therefore, make sure that there is room for expansion. Third, pay attention to the public space and give pedestrians and cyclists the most space. Stay cautious with buildings by rail, because you must ensure that the area remains uncluttered. Finally, ensure good visibility of the station building and do not let it drown in the vicinity.

12:15 Tech Stage: changing travel habits

Audrey Détrie, Managing Director at Trainline International. talks about new sustainable travel habits. From surveys in France, it shows that three out of four people say they are ready to switch to another mode of transport, and they mostly find sustainability an important factor. “People are willing to change their behaviour, which is good news”.

Data sharing is very important, she emphasises. One example is that from surveys appears that it is difficult to get compensation and many people therefore don’t apply for it. Trainline created a tool which facilitates the process of receiving a voucher when a train is late and, it automatically notifies you when you are allegible for compensation.

12:00 ProRail Stage: rail freight transport

On the third stage of RailTech Europe, which is located in the Inktpot in Utrecht, the management of ProRail will discuss the future of rail freight transport. “Not everyone has a positive image of rail freight transport, especially due to issues such as vibrations and noise pollution,” says Carel Robbeson of RailCargo. “There are still people who think that many hazardous substances are transported by rail. Politics too easily agree with such stories. We emphasize time and again that freight transport is safe and sustainable, but sometimes it feels like we have to prove that the sea is salty. ”

“We want to put freight transport better on the map,” says Ans Rietstra, operational director of ProRail. “As soon as a freight train passes by, we want people to get the impression that the train is there for them. “Hey, that includes my order. This train also runs for me “. It must be clear why the goods are transported by rail, also from a sustainability perspective: we emit less CO2 and we help to reduce the number of traffic jams. Finally, we must continue to communicate about the work being done: we are working on the condition of the railways, we are working on reducing vibrations and we are working on improving the situation on the railways in the major ports.”

11:00 Tech Stage, the Passenger

Niels van Oort & Danique Ton from the Smart Public Transport Lab at Delft University of Technology talk about a survey they conducted with Dutch Railways (NS) about traveling behaviour during the pandemic. Mark van Hagen of NS discusses the plans of NS for after the crisis. How travelers can be spread over the day to avoid busy rush hours on the train? “We are currently conducting a trial with the University of Nijmegen to spread lectures so that not all students take the train at the same time. But we also look at flexible ticket prices can also encourage people to choose a different time. ”

Niels van Oort: “You see that instead of a lease car that stands still much of the time, employers encourage employees to use the bicycle. Here too there must be a financial incentive. Carriers can also benefit from this.”

They expect that people will traveller mostly on Wednesdays and Fridays in the future. In Belgium they also expect this, says Michiel Voes, researcher from the University of Antwerp.

11:00 Panel discussion

Moderator Rogier Elshout: “ERTMS has been a promising step for decades and will ensure seamless cross-border train traffic, but now a locomotive that has been approved in Germany is not allowed to enter the Netherlands and vice versa. And Germany buys heavy trains, but that causes problems in the Netherlands due to the unstable surface here. How are we going to solve that? ”

John Voppen of ProRail: “Procedures stand in the way of cooperation, culture is a bigger obstacle than technology.”

Herald Ruijters: “Up to now we have noticed little sense of urgency, but we are now working on it. And with the ERA (European Railway Agency) they are already well on the way with European permits.

Do you want to join the event? Go to the website to register, watch the different stages and join in the networking platform.

Marjan Rintel of NS: “A European ticketing system is extremely important. In aviation you have IATA as an independent institute that makes this possible. We don’t have that on the track. ”

Rogier Elshout: “Would you like to outsource this, because Deutsche Bahn has a great system for this.”

Marjan Rintel: “It must be an independent system.”

Rogier Elshout: “Is there a task for the European Commission here?”

Herald Ruijters of DG Move: “I am pleased to hear that there is a willingness at NS, but we cannot build or manage that system. We can insist or encourage it to happen. ”

10:55 Diederik Samsom, head of the cabinet of European Commissioner Frans Timmermans

Diederik Samsom is closely involved in the Green Deal as the private secretary of Frans Timmermans. He mentions Rail Baltica as one of the many rail projects underway in Europe. “A multi-billion investment that will generate millions of jobs. Digitization makes train transport more reliable and efficient. So let’s finish the ERTMS project. We were already working on it when the spokesman for transport was for the PvdA (A Dutch political party) in the Netherlands, and that was more than fifteen years ago. ”

Stimulating the train instead of the plane should, according to Samsom, include more tax on flying. Shouldn’t we just ban short flights, Rogier Elshout wonders. Marjan Rintel sees more in better connections, such as with Berlin. But also equalizing the tax burden on flights and train journeys.

Samsom expects that a ban on flights shorter than 500 kilometers has too many problems to implement. He thinks an attractive alternative works better.

10:50 Marjan Rintel, director of the Dutch Railways

The new director of transport company NS looks forward to the year with confidence, despite corona. “We have an enormous task for housing construction in the Netherlands, which includes transport. The track is the perfect way to do this. ” Rintel also notes that for decades hardly any investment has been made in rail. “Now is the time to make up for that damage. Governments must invest, invest and invest in rail. ”

10:25 Herald Ruijters, DG Move European Commission

Day chairman Rogier Elshout presents the results of the poll to Herald Ruijters, director of DG Move at the European Commission. The poll question was what participants think of the European Commission. Most of the votes went to the Dapper demolition of barriers for international train traffic.

“Our role is to make it possible and then make it happen. Funds like that of Connecting Europe are a strong means, 70 percent of these investments go to rail. ”

Elshout wonders what will become of the plans the European Commission has for rail at the end of the European Year of Rail. “The Fourth Railway Package has also eventually been adopted in a highly watered down form. How’s that going here? ”

“We are taking small steps, but in the right way. We are following a democratic process in Europe that takes time and adjustments. It just doesn’t work here like in China. There, new railway lines will be built anyway. Right through people’s gardens. In Europe we take the interests of all parties into account. ”

10:00 – 10:20 Tech stage: roll forming train roofs

Meanwhile at the Tech Stage, John Sin (Managing Director of SHC Heavy Industry) talks about the forming of long and seamless train roofs, which the company specialises in. After the presentation, he answers questions from the audience via a live connection. He talks about how in Asia, stainless steel is mainly used for train roofs, and in Europe aluminum. “Aluminium is lighter in weight, which they prefer in Europe.” In Asia, stainless steel is the go-to, which lasts longer and guarantees a minimum of 30 years.

“After 10 years, aluminium looks pretty old, stainless still after 20 years looks more like new.” However, aluminium can also be roll formed, which the company also supplies, says John Shin. A 22 meters long roof can be produced in 5 minutes.

10:10 Speech Stientje van Veldhoven

In an opening statement, Dutch State secretary of Infrastructure and Water Management Stientje van Veldhoven welcomed everyone at the event. “The pandemic has been a challenge for everyone, and for the railways in particular. So I’m really thrilled that so many of you are taking part today”.

She emphasises that traffic demand and transport have grown by 30 percent since the 90’s. The railway sector has yet to take on a larger share of that growth, and it definately needs to.”

“Our common goal is clear, because rail transport benefits both the economy and the environment. If we want to make real progress, we have to join forces. It cannot be denied that the European rail network has the shape of a patchwork quilt. That is why I am very pleased that we have set up an International Rail Passengers Platform, in which the member states can work together to improve international train traffic. ”

10.00 Opening

RailTech Europe was officially opened by ProRail CEO John Voppen and ProMedia Director Joan Blaas. With the press of a button, the starting sign for the event of three days was given.

John Voppen, CEO of Dutch infrastructure manager ProRail made an opening statement: “2021 is the year in which we celebrate the Paris climate agreements. There is still a lot of work to do, but we as railways are part of the solution. We should aim for faster and more high-speed rail, and need to increase the pace and innovate more quickly.” He also has a message for all RailTech participants: “Don’t use RailTech just as a museum, but make it a real RailTech: make deals together and work together and seize the opportunity.”

For the first time, RailTech Europe has moved to an online event, but this is far from a negative thing. Joan Blaas, director of organiser ProMedia: “Normally you would walk around at the conference. In this online setting, you can better meet people with similiar interest.” It is also the most international edition of RailTech so far, with participants from at least 89 countries from all over the world.

9.30 Welcome

Moderator of the day Rogier Elshout and RailFreight editor Majorie van Leijen will introduce the day and explain how the event works and what can be done on the various stages.

Still want to join? Go to the website to register and join the event and the networking platform.

Author: Esther Geerts

Editor of RailTech.com

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