A DOUBLING of rail traffic in Europe over the next 15 years is anticipated in the updated version of the Strategic Rail Research Agenda drawn up by the European Rail Research Advisory Council. This was formally presented to András Siegler, Director for Transport at the European Commission's Research Directorate-General, by ERRAC Chairman Åke Wennberg in Brussels on June 27.
ERRAC is one of series of European bodies created to co-ordinate research and minimise wasteful overlap (according to Siegler the equivalent body for food found 100 projects looking at the same bacterium). The first Strategic Rail Research Agenda was published in 2002, covering the years to 2020. The document has now been revised to set out the focus for the next decade and a half, taking account of changing circumstances and emphasising the need to improve cost effectiveness and the customer experience.
Targets for market share growth have been lowered to account for rapid expansion of air travel and road haulage. A move from low value bulk freight towards high value business is anticipated, as China increasingly dominates manufacturing and road transport is unable to handle growing volumes of containers. However, Wennberg agreed with one delegate's comment that Errac needs more input from the logistics sector, which has tended to escape notice as it is not grant-dependent.
Seven priority areas for research have been identified in the Agenda: 'intelligent mobility', covering seamless ticketing and information; energy & environment; personal security; improving product attractiveness; new accounting models; cost-effective infrastructure; and international certification of vehicles. This last is a cause 'close to my heart' for Wennberg who is Vice-President & Chief Technical Officer for Bombardier Transportation. He criticised the pace of procedures which mean it can take a year to approve an electric locomotive.
Siegler emphasised to the ERRAC members that 'there has to be a clear plan of the research that is needed, and what is missing.' Once that is done, 'then next step is to give ourselves the means to put it into practice.' Wennberg stressed that not all research will bear fruit, pointing out that 'if every project is successful, it means we are not taking risks.'