ProRail CEO: we must seize the Year of Rail for more sustainability

The UN climate summit in Glasgow last year was moved to November 2021. This gives the rail sector the opportunity to work towards this event in the European Year of Rail. ProRail director John Voppen said this to Dutch sister magazine SpoorPro on Wednesday. According to Voppen, it is a great opportunity for the sector to show what it can do to contribute to the sustainability goals.

“If you were to replace all short-haul flights with train travel, you would save just as much CO2 as with stopping car traffic”, says Voppen. According to the CEO of Dutch infrastructure manager ProRail, this clearly shows that rail is part of the solution in the pursuit of a more sustainable society. The fact that the European Year of Rail now coincides with the climate summit is a nice bonus in his view. But according to Voppen, that does not mean that it will take care of itself.

“We also have to keep our promises. We must use the European Year of Rail for this and seize our opportunity. Otherwise it will remain with dreaming, talking and calculating”. For example, Voppen would like to see European and international train traffic clearly stated in the coalition agreement of the new Dutch government, which is currently being negotiated . “In any case, the election programmes were quite full of it.”

Different than suggested

Voppen had only just been appointed as CEO of ProRail when the corona virus spread in the Netherlands. As a result, his first full year at the top of the railway manager was completely different than he had imagined. Nevertheless, he can look back on a successful 2020.

“I am proud that the trains have continued to run and that we have carried out the projects we had in mind. When the corona crisis started, I would not have dared to hope that, ”admits Voppen, who is now ready for more contact with people.

“I miss the real connection. I had planned to go out more and get in touch with our people. But we are just not doing anything for the health of everyone. I still have that credit, just say ”.

RailTech Live

ProRail hopes to do a lot of work at RailTech Europe 2021, especially because the event gives the rail manager the opportunity to come into contact with other stakeholders and stakeholders from the sector. “In a time like this it is important that we are together, even if it is digital,” says Voppen.

The infrastructure manager will use RailTech, among other things, to highlight progress in the field of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). ProRail will talk about the monitoring of systems and the importance of cooperation and the exchange of data, since ERMTS “requires integral cooperation from the entire sector.” Voppen is satisfied that the first milestone in this area has now been reached and that “the management process is now well organised. It is often something like integrated monitoring where you can get the small improvements out of it”, says the ProRail CEOdirec.

Practical applications

During RailTech, ProRail will also highlight the plans to make stations more energy-efficient and the pursuit of emission-free construction sites. Voppen also wants to be surprised at the event: “As much as I am interested in the topics that we will be highlighting ourselves, it is always good to keep an eye out for innovations that you are not familiar with yet”.

He cites the example of lower-than-usual noise barriers, which nevertheless perform better than the more common and higher ones. “I was very impressed with that”. The first tests with such noise barriers were carried out in the Netherlands in Hilversum and Susteren in 2018. “RailTech can really result in practical applications”, concludes Voppen. View the programme of the ProRail stage here, the networking platform of the event is already live to schedule meetings with othes from the railway sector.

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Author: Nick Augusteijn

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