AN ENTICING vision of attractive, sustainable and efficient public transport, contributing to a higher quality of life, was painted by speaker after speaker at the International Union of Public Transport’s 56th World Congress, which took place in Roma on June 5 to 9.

Many of the factors needed to ensure high-quality public transport are well understood by industry professionals, if not always by their political masters. UITP’s new briefing paper Vision 2020: from vision to action compares demographic trends with examples of best practice from cities around the world to demonstrate how concepts can be put into place to make public transport ’the preferred choice in mobility policy decisions’.

The congress began with the signing of UITP’s Roma Manifesto, calling on political leaders to ’implement policies that prioritise public transport, recognising that improvements act as a catalyst to growth, maximising economic and social development and lessening environmental harm.’

It was no coincidence that one of the signatories was Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, President of the influential Club of Rome, which in 1972 launched the debate on environmental sustainability. In his keynote address, Prince Hassan warned that mankind was already exploiting the earth’s resources at around 1·2 times the sustainable rate, with western countries accounting for 85% of consumption. Pressure would grow as the rest of the world sought to overturn a 16:1 imbalance, and he believed the only solution was the challenge of ’dematerialising society by a factor of 10’ over the coming decades.

Rail and light rail have much to offer in terms of sustainable transport, but further research and development are needed to keep up with advances elsewhere. Noting that the concept of Bus Rapid Transit first proposed in South America is now proving more cost-effective and attractive in the Far East and parts of Europe, UITP Secretary-General Hans Rat warned that the rail industry could no longer take the ’arrogant’ producer-led view that it was the only practical high-capacity mode.

  • During the congress, UITP announced that Berlin’s BVG had become the latest signatory to its Charter on Sustainable Development, launched at the Madrid Congress in 2003. Over 100 organisations have now signed up to the Charter or pledged to work towards implementing it. Railway Gazette is pleased to endorse it too.

    Chairing a plenary session on Sustainable Development inRoma, MTR Corp’s Dr Glenn Frommer said that through these 100 signatories across the public transport sector, the Charter was now ’touching millions of people’. Marijke van Haaren, Transport Minister from the province of Gelderland, said the Charter offered a valuable framework for decision-makers facing hard choices, helping them to ensure that transport policies are implemented in an environmentally-sensitive manner.