Under the patronage of European Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot and the Mayor of Amsterdam Job Cohen, and with the support of the United Nations, UIC is organising the sixth world congress on high speed rail. UIC Highspeed 2008 is being jointly hosted by the main players in the Netherlands rail sector: train operator NS, high speed operator NS Hispeed and infrastructure manager ProRail, with the active support of leading railway associations CER, EIM, and Unife.

Being held in Amsterdam on March 17 - 19, UIC Highspeed 2008 will bring together 1 500 decision makers and stakeholders involved in the planning and implementation of high-performance rail services.

The main conference theme of Fast Track to Sustainable Mobility reflects the objective of demonstrating that high speed rail represents an optimum solution to meet current and future challenges of demand for mobility and sustainability all around the world. The crucial issues - ranging from political aspects, economic and funding models to commercial innovation and trends in technical development - will all be addressed. The congress will explore six main topics in 24 parallel sessions:

1. High speed rail and society. An appraisal of the extent to which high speed rail can cope with changes in environment and/or transport policy.

2. High speed rail in practice. An overview of current high speed rail projects around the world, including an analysis of progress with each of them.

3. From single lines to a high speed network. An examination of the evolution from single routes into a true high speed network, already seen in Japan and Europe, which could be transposed to other world regions.

4. Strategic issues in high speed rail. This will look at specific key elements of successful rail systems, ranging from the penetration of rail into urban areas to maximum train speeds, via issues such as infrastructure pricing and capacity management.

5. Meeting customer expectations. Defining the needs and expectations of high speed users and identifying trends which will allow the rail industry to respond to this demand.

6. Innovations in fixed and mobile equipment. Highlighting major breakthroughs in technology that will ensure the competitiveness of high speed rail for the future

There will also be two round table debates attended by senior executives of railway operators, the supply industry, financiers and other major players in high speed rail from around the world. This will facilitiate an exchange of specialist views on the current and future situation of high speed rail and its relationship with the socio-economic environment in which it operates.

An innovation at UIC Highspeed 2008 is a voting system, permitting interactive engagement of all participants at the round tables and the plenary sessions.

The development of high speed rail is, of course, of particular interest to the next generation of world citizens, given that the combination of speed and sustainability will be an indispensable asset for the future. Our challenge will be introducing the future perspective. Are we, in 2008, contributing adequately to the high speed rail concept of life in the future? A group of students has therefore been invited to participate in the congress for the first time. They will contribute to the programme by challenging all participants, and help to keep the focus firmly on the future.

In addition to the actual congress, there will be an extensive exhibition at which operators, suppliers and consultants will provide an in-depth look at developments relating to systems, technology and services. The event will provide a unique opportunity to forge new personal and professional ties.

A series of technical visits will give participants the chance to see for themselves the development of new high speed lines in the Netherlands, introducing many innovative features such as the challenges of construction on unusual terrain and below sea level, the use of ballastless track between Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport, the use of ETCS Level 2 train control, and the planned mix of long distance and regional high speed services.

Of the four scheduled visits, one will be by train, one on foot, one by boat and the last by bicycle - illustrating clearly how the environmentally-friendly infrastructure blends into the landscape - a topic that is very dear to the hearts of the Dutch.

  • CAPTION: Allocating €125bn for rail in its 2005-20 strategic plan, the Spanish government expects to develop a 10 000 km network, putting 90% of the population within 50 km of a high speed station.

For more information on the congress and exhibition visit www.uic-highspeed2008.com