Qatar Railways Company (Qatar Rail) kicked off yesterday the 1st International Conference on Railway Interoperability, Standardisation and Harmonisation in the Middle East with a vision to develop a coherent, integrated, and competitive rail transport system to serve the region’s economy and society.
Organised by UIC, the International Union of Railways; UIC Middle East; OTIF, the Intergovernmental Organization for International Carriage by Rail; CIT, the International Rail Transport Committee; and hosted by Qatar Rail, the first day of the conference provided a unique opportunity to discuss the latest developments in optimising international cross-border rail transport.
The varied participation of industry leaders from the railway and transportation sector was indicative of the 2-day event’s importance. Following the key note opening speeches by Eng. Abdulla Abdulaziz Al Subaie, Qatar Rail’s Managing Director, Mr. Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, and Mr. François Davenne, OTIF Secretary General, the conference focused on three major topics that discussed “legal interoperability framework”, “railway harmonization and standardization”, and “Railway Safety”.
Participating companies mainly included OTIF, UIC, CIT, SRO – Saudi Arabia, Etihad Rail – UAE, Oman Rail, Moroccan State Railways, UIC – Africa, TCDD – Turkey, RAI – Iran, Sina Rail Pars Transport – Iran, AFRA – Afghanistan, Huawei Technologies – China, Alstom Transport – France, and Qatar Rail.
Commenting on the event’s contribution to the development of rail infrastructure and transport, Eng. Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Subaie, Managing Director of Qatar Rail said in his speech:
“By bringing together local, regional and international experts from the railway industry at UIC RAME, Qatar Rail aims to contribute to Railway Interoperability, Standardisation and Harmonisation in the Middle East in general and the GCC region in particular”.
He added: “In commitment to Qatar’s National Vision 2030, our company adheres to Qatar’s national transportation objectives enunciated in the Qatar National Development Framework (QNDF). In addition to the Doha Metro and the Lusail City Light Rail Transit, Qatar Rail envisages the development of a Long
Distance Rail that will form part of the planned GCC cross-border railway network that will enable a higher level of cooperation between the member states, and play a crucial role in the sustainable development of each country’s economy”.
From his part, Mr. Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, praised Qatar Rail’s efforts to host the conference, and shed light on UIC Middle East’s vision and strategic action plan for 2013 to 2020, aiming to develop an integrated rail transport system in the region. He said in his speech:
“Currently, the Middle-East Region is the part of the World with most ambitious projects and most advanced achievements in the field of rail transportation.
In nearly all countries, high performance railway systems for passenger and freight as well as for urban public transport are planned or in construction”. He noted: “The presence of multiple perspectives underlines the imperative need to use common standards, common rules for operations, and common legal systems. With interoperability and seamless cross-border operations, railways will be able to offer all the advantages of the rail system to the markets”.
Besides UIC presentations that covered discussions on railway harmonisation and standardization, Mr. François Davenne, OTIF’s Secretary General, addressed the legal interoperability framework, with a focus on OTIF role of coordination and interfacing, in addition to the Scope of COTIF and its contract law.
From his part, Mr. George Phillipos, Senior Manager of Network Wide Assets in the Operations and Maintenance Department at Qatar Rail, gave insight on Standardization of Engineering and Asset standards in the GCC, what are the challenges of harmonisation and standardisation in the cross-border transportation in the GCC region, and how each member state can contribute in facilitating the procedures.
The first day of the conference ended with a gala dinner, sponsored by Huawei Technologies Investment Company Ltd., which enabled UIC RAME’s attendees to mingle, discuss potential partnerships and share expertise.