9 October 2014

The 2nd annual European Rail Congress is almost upon us.  The Summit and Awards are taking place on 11th November in London and delegates are booking fast and excitement is building. If you haven’t already booked your place, now is the time to REGISTER and arrange your travel arrangements.

João Aguiar Machado, Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) will be delivering a keynote speech at the prestigious Awards ceremony, setting out what challenges lie ahead for the rail sector and for the Commission.

This summit will examine how effective the European “Shift to Rail” initiative – which was backed by the European Parliament earlier this year – will be in boosting rails market share.

Confirmed speakers include:-

Brian Simpson
Chair of ERC Awards Judging Panel and former MEP
Michael Roberts
Director General, UK Rail Delivery Group
Jeremy Long
CEO – European Business, MTR Corporation
Lord Berkeley
Board Member, European Rail Freight Association
Monika Heiming
Executive Director, European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM)
Niall Simmons
Head of Bids Engineering, Bombardier Transportation
Alistair McPhee
Vice President Transportation Systems, Thales UK
Mioara Bourceanu
President of the Board, Grup Feroviar Roman

To book your place at this year’s European Rail Congress please click here

9 October 2014

Author: Nicola Shaw, CEO, HS1 Ltd


This year, Eurostar and the Channel Tunnel both celebrate their 20th birthday and Southeastern marks the fifth anniversary of domestic high-speed services between London and the south east of England; this is therefore an appropriate time to reflect back on what we have achieved over that time in delivering these new services.

The stations served by the UK’s only high-speed line are thriving. Since its reopening seven years ago, St Pancras International has been the nation’s favourite station every year following the redevelopment, topping the National Passenger Survey. We have seen growth at St Pancras both in terms of footfall and dwell time; more than 48 million people visit the station each year, spending on average 40 minutes visiting the shops, bars and cafés before they board a train. Indeed, for more than 12 million of the people who come to the station, the station itself is the destination.

Amongst those who are there to travel, though, we have seen impressive increases to the numbers of passengers using the high-speed line, both domestically and internationally. In just the last year Eurostar carried more than ten million passengers for the first time in its history, while Southeastern’s domestic services have seen an increase of more than 60 per cent in passengers at Ashford and Ebbsfleet since the line opened.

Central to this success is our service-led business model, which has been celebrated by the UK’s rail regulator as leading the way in Britain’s rail industry. We pride ourselves on the satisfaction of our customers, whether they be train operating companies and freight companies, the retailers within our stations or the passengers and shoppers whose numbers continue to grow year-on-year.

Anniversaries are also an important time to look forwards, and we believe the growth in customer satisfaction can only be sustained if our partnerships approach continues.

Of course, one of the main reasons why these partnerships have been so productive is that together we have managed to get ahead of the curve in determining what it is that customers want and expect – and it is this momentum that we must continue to harness. Good working relationships are the key to deliver customer satisfaction.

Increasingly within the industry we have to look at trends to see what customers are going to be expecting in five years and deliver them before that timescale. We recently rolled-out Wi-Fi at St Pancras; this is not new for a public space, but in recognition that our customers demand connectivity of the highest calibre we installed the fastest public space Wi-Fi in the UK. This allows a passenger to download a film long enough to last the journey from London to Paris in the time it takes them to walk from the platform to their seat.

Our context also continues to change. The UK Government has announced plans to develop a new Garden City on our doorstep at Ebbsfleet, in Kent. With our Ebbsfleet International Station at the centre of the planned development, high-speed rail sits at the physical and conceptual centre of the project.  This is strengthened by the proposed entertainment resort to be developed by Paramount, close to the Ebbsfleet site, which has the potential to transform tourism in the south east. Once more, much like in France with Euro Disney, high-speed rail will be at the absolute heart of the plans.

At national and international levels, too, plans for the LISEA consortium (running the high-speed line between Bordeaux and Tours), HS2 and further high-speed lines are at varying stages of development but move closer to being a reality. HS1 will eventually be joined by sister lines connecting other parts of the country and abroad, and we are working with industry colleagues to share the expertise we have from these first years of operation.

In Britain we expect a lot from our high-speed railway and it is up to us and our industry partners to plan for future demands and expectations.  The highest quality engineering and technology contributed to the creation of this railway and it’s a key part of our job at HS1 Ltd to protect the infrastructure, maintaining and improving it so that, at the end of our concession in 2040, we return it to the Government in superb condition.  We have been built for the long-term, and we look forward to the future enthusiastically.

9 October 2014

Author: Mrs. Mioara BOURCEANU, Chairperson of the Board, Grup Feroviar Roman – company of Grampet Group

Mioara-BourceanuIt has been about three years since the European Commission’s White Paper on Transport “Roadmap to a single European transport area – Towards a competitive and resource-efficient transport system”. Some things have moved forward with ease, some have slightly nudged and some still need our undivided attention.

In one of the early paragraphs, the above-mentioned document made a very clear warning with just one phrase: Still, the transport system is not sustainable. Looking 40 years ahead, it is clear that transport cannot develop along the same path.

Oil dependence, CO2 emissions, congestion costs, and accessibility gap, social costs of accidents and noise, and an ever growing need for more competitiveness and for more growth are all not just key benchmarks, but are the questions which need answering if we all want a better Europe.

There is a clear need and also a clear intent that if we want to make Europe sustainable, then we need to start making transportation sustainable, because almost every economical equation comes down to competitive costs and a key component of cost is transport. The White Paper states is just as clear: …the consolidation of large volumes for transfers over long distances. This implies greater use of buses and coaches, rail and air transport for passengers and for freight, multimodal solutions relying on waterborne and rail modes for long hauls.

The solution for this consolidation process is rail. Passenger and freight transportation through rail networks makes this the most competitive option, offering not only sound costs, but also permits starting economic processes that engage the horizontal of the economy, thus creating jobs, prosperity and a growth spurt that can prove crucial to our present and future. It’s not just about jobs in developing infrastructure, although a high-speed European rail network and a dense rail railway network in all member states are key requirements.

In the roadmap proposed by the European Commission the goal bar is set pretty high: Thirty per cent of road freight over 300 km should shift to other modes such as rail or waterborne transport by 2030, and more than 50 % by 2050, facilitated by efficient and green freight corridors. (…) By 2050 the majority of medium-distance passenger transport should go by rail.

The rail industry and rail transport is the Cinderella that makes this goal attainable. And in further detail, it is rail transport companies that can make this objective become reality.

We, at Grampet Group, have always believed that in the XXI century, success will belong to those who have the ability to anticipate trends and have the strength to keep up with the increasingly accelerated pace of a world in constant motion. Distances are getting smaller, time is getting shorter and goods move faster and farther. It is no longer enough just to have vision; you should also have the strength to implement this vision.

Our company, with its headquarters in Romania, succeeded in record time to expand in several countries: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine. The flagship company of Grampet Group is Grup Feroviar Roman (GFR). Founded in 2001, GFR is the largest private rail freight operator in the region conducting transports of approximately 1 million tones / month.

As in Cinderella’s story, rail only needs a solid chance to prove itself. The last couple of years have given signs that this chance is starting to show itself. But there is still work to be done: we need European investments and national investments, we need to help national or European industry captains to develop rolling stock at competitive prices and with competitive outcomes, and we need a clear plan to turn these investments into jobs, because we already know how to transform a bulging transportation sector into growth.

Finally, we need to join forces to develop European transportation and to cooperate rather than just compete, because a win-win situation is better compared to any other alternative. We need, in short, to get moving.

9 September 2014

The 2nd annual European Rail Congress takes place on 11th November in London and brings together the European railway industry to discuss and debate important developments that will determine the future of the European rail sector.

Rail has strong advantages over other forms of land transport. It provides efficient, high quality and safe connectivity across Europe; reduces Europe’s emission of greenhouse gases; boosts jobs and economic growth; and facilitates European competitiveness.


However, railways operate in a competitive environment and are vying for market share with road and air competition for both passengers and freight.

Our summit will examine how effective the European “Shift to Rail” initiative – which was backed by the European Parliament earlier this year – will be in boosting rails market share.


13:00 – 14:30   Session One: How technology can make rail more competitive, efficient, environmentally and customer friendly

Chaired by: João Aguiar Machado, Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport

Alistair McPhee, Vice President Transportation Systems, Thales UK
Advanced traffic management and control: safer and more capacity

Bombardier Transportation (Speaker tbc)
The train of the future

Monika Heiming, Executive Director, European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM) 
Maximising capacity from infrastructure

14:30 – 15:00   Refreshment Break

15:00 – 16:30   Session Two: Which countries in Europe have been most successful in increasing Rail’s share of the market?

Chaired by: Brian Simpson, former Chair of the European Parliament Transport Committee

Michael Roberts, Director General, UK Rail Delivery Group
What lessons can Europe learn from the UK model?

Jeremy Long, CEO – European Business, MTR Corporation
New routes transforming rail: what the success of London Overground tells us about changing people’s travel habits

Lord Berkeley, Board Member, European Rail Freight Association
Rail market opening – current regulatory conditions stifle new entrants across Europe

To book your place at this year’s European Rail Congress please click here

9 September 2014

Jeremy Long, CEO – European Business, MTR Corporation


Changes to transport networks, particularly in London, are always cause for much discussion and debate, usually centred on how much disruption the work may cause how they will be paid for, either from individual commuters pockets -or from the public purse as a whole. What is often overlooked is the wide-ranging benefits new lines bring to the city from economic regeneration to transforming the ways in which people travel by unlocking new areas and providing additional capacity. MTR was recently awarded the contract to run the Crossrail concession, and we look forward to working with TfL to help unlock and magnify the wide-ranging benefits which Crossrail will bring by transforming how and why people travel around the capital.

A 2013 study by the European Commission confirmed what most people already knew, demand for rail travel is increasing. The study found that rail passenger traffic as a proportion of transport journeys had increased from 4.6% in 1993 to 7.5% in 2010, with all the indications pointing towards continued growth.

Traditional transport models tend to focus on growth from modal shift, with people changing how they get from A to B. However a move away from cars and buses onto trains isn’t the full story, and our experience shows that greatly enhanced services and new lines actually significantly change where people travel.

London Overground is a case in point. Despite the lack of connectivity between the South East of London and the North East of London, it took a few decades (and a number of iterations) before the London Overground network as we now know it came to fruition. And with it came not only a new way for people to move around London, but newly accessible jobs, businesses and services to easily move around to.

Shoreditch, Dalston and Hoxton, areas that up until a decade ago were relatively unconnected and underachieving economically, are now thriving communities with many successful businesses and buoyant house prices - Rightmove estimates house prices in Hackney are up 30% since 2011, and Hackney Council suggests the growth rate for Hackney businesses was 31% between 2004-2011 (13% higher than London as a whole). Of course these changes can’t simply be put down to the power of transport, but statistics such as an 150% increase in passenger numbers at Dalston Kingsland station in just 5 years can’t be disregarded as insignificant.

However, the connectivity a rail line brings is only as good as its reliability, and this is where London Overground has come into its own. Since taking over operation of London Overground in 2007 MTR, as part of London Overground Rail Operations Limited (LOROL), has helped transform the network from one of the lowest performers in the London transport portfolio to one of the highest. Through effective investment in rolling stock, staff and stations, annual ridership has now reached 135 million – up five-fold since we took over the concession. Crucially, punctuality is over 96% and, according to independent passenger watchdog Passenger Focus, during 2013 services achieved a customer satisfaction rating of 91%, among the highest of any franchise or concession in the UK.

This success shows that Britain’s rail networks can be run efficiently and effectively, and that consistently high reliability is not unattainable. MTR’s success on the London Overground is not a one-off. In Hong Kong we run the metro, light rail and Airport Express services, to even higher levels of punctuality.

With journey time between Tottenham Court Road and West Drayton expected to be just 25 minutes, and from Tottenham Court Road to Woolwich a mere 19 minutes, Crossrail will bring even more parts of London within striking distance of other parts of the city – opening up all the regeneration benefits such connectivity can foster. However, what will be crucial to really bringing transformative change to travel habits, is ensuring the highest levels of punctuality and reliability complement what will be a world-class piece of transport infrastructure – and this will be MTR’s core focus when we begin operations.

Crossrail – begins operations in May 2015 with the services between Shenfield to Liverpool Street. We look forward to working closely with our partners at TfL to ensure the opportunities offered by Crossrail are made into realities through real reliability – encouraging more and more people to re-think their travel options and explore new areas.

Jeremy Long is a confirmed speaker at the 2014 European Rail Congress Summit


28 July 2014


Having received over 250 entries for the second annual European Rail Congress Awards, the judges have made their decision on the final shortlists for the 20 award categories for 2014.

Brian Simpson MEP, Chair of the Judging Panel, said:

“We know that the European rail sector has an excellent standing across the globe, and so the high standard of the submissions we received did not come as a surprise. However, it has made mine and my fellow judges’ jobs very difficult! Competition for a place on the short-list even for these inaugural Awards has been fierce.

I am pleased that countries from right across Europe have participated in these Awards and that evidence of best practice from both small and larger countries from the West of Europe across to the East, receive the opportunity for recognition of their efforts and innovation.

ERA_BlogImage_Shortlist2014The full short-list is available for download here.

The winners will be announced at a prestigious Awards Dinner on the evening of 11 November in London.

For more information on how to attend the 2014 European Rail Congress please click here.

3 March 2014

ERA_BlogImage_Ruette-0314Mobility lies at the heart of the European Single Market. It allows citizens to enjoy the freedom to travel and it permits commerce, growth and the creation of jobs. The competitiveness of European companies is significantly determined by the efficiency of freight transport and logistics. Due to increasing specialization, but also due to changes in consumer behaviour the volume of freight traffic in the European Union has increased in past years. The international division of labour has generated growth and prosperity, but also caused congestion, noise and emissions of greenhouse gases. It is therefore our aim to steer the growth of freight transport towards sustainable and efficient tracks.

Completing the internal market by access to market for all rail operators

Currently only about 10% of European cargo and 6% of passengers are carried by rail. If we want to get more passengers and freight on Europe’s railways, customers need to have an attractive choice.

The 4th railway package aims at completing the internal market in rail transport by allowing access to the market to all operators in order to improve service quality and efficiency. The independence of infrastructure managers needs to be strengthened so that they can ensure fair access for all European operators to the railway. The European Railway Agency should become a “one stop shop” issuing EU wide vehicle authorisations for placing on the market as well as EU wide safety certificates for operators. A more competitive and more widely used railway system will contribute to the competitiveness of our manufacturing industry and benefit users and public budgets alike.

Much progress has been made. The European Parliament completed its first reading on the whole package at the end of February, supporting the Commission’s ambitions on the technical pillar.  At the same time the European Parliament did not follow the Commission’s ambition on the key role of infrastructure managers in the rail system and on the issue of tendering for public service contracts. The Council is about to complete its examination of the technical pillar (interoperability, safety and the reinforcement of the European Rail Agency) and should have reviewed the market pillar (domestic passenger services market opening and governance issues) before the end of the 2014.


19 December 2013


ERA_BlogImage_Simpson-JudgeThe 2nd Annual European Rail Congress will be held in London on 11 November 2014. Entries for the annual Rail Awards are being accepted online up until 30 April 2014.

The feedback from our inaugural event has been overwhelming with many requests from European countries to host the 2014 event. Discussions will take place in 2014 with a view to taking it into mainland Europe in 2015.


Our new look judging panel will be chaired by Brian Simpson MEP and includes Matthias Ruete, Director General, European Commission – DG Move; Monika Heiming, Executive Director, European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM); François Coart, President, European Rail Freight Association (ERFA); Marcel Verslype, Executive Director, European Railway Agency (ERA); Alain Flausch, Secretary General, UITP; and Willy Smeulders, Board Member, European Passenger Federation (EPF).

Over 300 of you entered the first ever Awards of the European Rail Congress from 23 countries right across Europe. 10 different countries were represented amongst the winners at last month’s awards ceremony. We look forward to even more of you entering and participating in 2014.

The 2014 awards are now open for entries. The awards entry deadline is Wednesday 30 April 2014, entries can be made online at Our Judges will then decide on the winners of each of the 18 award categories. These will be announced at the European Rail Congress Awards Dinner on 11 November 2014, in London. The finalists will be announced in June.

We all know that rail has the capability to play a key role in any sustainable transport system by offering efficient, safe transport with low environmental impact, and these strengths need to be articulated in the political decision-making process as well as promoted in society. Through further raising the profile of examples of best practice across Europe, the European Rail Congress Awards aims to help influence the wider perception of rail.


Entrants can make their submissions online to the 18 different award categories.

Deadline for entries: 30 April 2014

Entries are welcome from both EU and non-EU European countries.

Award winners will be announced at the 2nd annual Awards ceremony in London on 11 November 2014.

15 October 2013

ERA_BlogImage_PolisPolis is the network of European cities and regions striving for innovative transport solutions. In recent years, we and our members have been increasingly involved in initiatives to electrify surface transport at the regional-local as well as the European level.

For example, Polis had a primary role in the launch of the European Electromobility Observatory, the Clean Vehicle Portal, and the Platform for the Electrification of Surface Transport, in which Polis and eleven organisations from across industries and transport modes have join forces.

The Platform, which held its launch event on March 19th in Brussels, calls upon public authorities to support the further electrification of surface transport on the basis of a multi-modal approach. Existing and future electrified public transport infrastructure should serve as a backbone providing charging facilities for electric road vehicles, while also facilitating seamless multi-modal travel.

The statement says that electrification of surface transport is achievable with existing technologies using electrified railways. In the urban and sub-urban context, an expansion of electrified public transport services, including light rail, metro, and trolleybuses, and the successful deployment of light-duty electric road vehicles, buses and other captive fleets as well as electric two-wheelers are within reach now.

An overview on the Polis network agenda and activities on electromobility, including the Platform for Electrification on Surface Transport, will be given during the parallel session “Towards the deployment of integrated electromobility services” at the 2013 Annual Polis Conference on 4-5 December 2013 in Brussels.


26 September 2013

Autumn has arrived and it brings with it the all new European Rail Congress and Awards which are taking place across 12-13th November in London. Delegates are booking fast and excitement is building. If you haven’t already booked your place, now is the time to REGISTER and arrange your travel arrangements.

Siim Kallas, Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Transport will be delivering a keynote speech at the Awards dinner, setting out what challenges lie ahead for the rail sector and for the Commission.  The Summit brings together the key players in the European railway industry to discuss and debate important developments that will determine the future of the European rail sector. Confirmed speakers include the UK Secretary of State for Transport, Brian Simpson MEP, Vladimir Yakunin President Russian Railways; Mauro Moretti Chairman CER; Marcel Verslype Executive Director European Rail Agency and David Martin CEO Arriva.

Rail has strong advantages over other forms of land transport.  It provides efficient, high quality and safe connectivity across Europe; reduces Europe’s emission of greenhouse gases; boosts jobs and economic growth; and facilitates European competitiveness.