UIC shares its key priorities for the rail sector at the International Transport Forum

3 mins read

The International Union of Railways (UIC) has shared its key priorities for the rail sector, including decarbonization, encouraging modal shift and further investment in infrastructure, at the International Transport Forum (ITF) summit held in Germany last week.

ITF Ministerial Round Table
ITF Ministerial Round Table

Under the theme, “Transport Enabling Sustainable Economies,” participants at the summit came together to reflect and share perspectives on the role of transport as an enabler of economic development that also drives environmental and social sustainability.

The summit is a major event on the global transport agenda where transport ministers, inter-governmental organizations and NGOs convene. For many years, UIC, together with its members, has actively engaged in this process to develop and make the arguments in favor of rail heard.

In addition, it gives UIC the chance to foster links with its institutional partners, such as the multi-lateral development banks including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

On May 24, UIC, represented by its director general François Davenne, took the opportunity to advocate the role of rail in decarbonizing the transport sector by participating in the first Ministerial Round Table on “Transport and Climate Change – moving forward from COP27,” where the discussion focused on actions needed to get the transport sector on track to decarbonize in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and how to best work together at an international level to achieve this.

In his speech, Davenne conveyed the role of rail in the new mobility paradigm to the transport ministers of Norway, Korea, Germany, Lithuania, Romania, Ireland, the UK, and Liechtenstein. Using the UIC Vision 2030 as a framework, he highlighted the need to implement policies that promote modal shift to less emitting modes of transport by at least 40%, by 2030, according to the IEA, and raising the financing for expansion and upgrading of public transport and active mobility infrastructure to support that shift.

He also presented the work of UIC under the LOTUS and SURGe initiatives, launched by the COP27 presidency, focused on activating systemic change to urban mobility. Key discussion outputs will be carried forward to high-level dialogues at COP28, UIC noted.

Lucie Anderton, UIC head of sustainable development, meanwhile, participated in the panel session on “ITF Transport Outlook 2023: The future of sustainable mobility,” which presented the key findings from the new edition of the ITF’s flagship publication, Transport Outlook 2023.

Anderton reflected on the policy recommendations presented giving UIC’s support to the view that a holistic and long-term view must be taken: “All the levers must be pulled to make the shift happen. Only by both discouraging private motorized vehicles at the same time as incentivizing and higher investment in public transport and rail freight can the change happen quick enough,” she said.

According to UIC, there was broad interest from the audience at ITF on the role of rail in decarbonizing mobility given that rail is the most electrified, has the lowest carbon intensity of all the motorized modes with the right investment, and is set to be the first mode to reach carbon neutrality.

“The most important thing that rail can do is attract more traffic,” UIC noted. “According to the International Energy Agency, rail’s market share needs to increase by more than 40% by 2030 for the transport sector to reach its 2050 net zero target. Although steps are being made in the right direction, especially with high-speed network expansion, the railway sector still only transports around 8% of passengers and 7% of freight globally.

“More trains are needed, and quickly. Substantial investment from the public and private sectors is justified and needed to create suitable and convenient public transport, as well as policies to encourage this transition,” UIC added.

UIC members are committed to overcoming these challenges, with notable examples including reducing energy consumption; improving measures and monitoring; and implementing actions to end fossil fuel use – notably through electrification, battery electric and hydrogen trains.

Given the right investment, the railway sector will be, by far, the first motorized mode to achieve carbon neutrality, UIC noted. To get there, there is a need for clear, consistent, and comprehensive policy and targets; incentivizing rail and public transport while discouraging high polluting modes; and long-term investment in rail, public and active travel.

According to UIC, climate finance and carbon markets could be used to improve and expand railways especially for low- and middle-income countries. Global cooperation is also essential, especially in view of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28. This is crucial, so that rail and public transport has a wider reach and, thanks to pre-existing and readily available solutions, is seen as the key solution for decarbonized transport.

Watch François Davenne’s interview at ITF here: