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UITP World Congress

The 61st UITP Congress saw participants from 83 countries, all united to drive sustainable transport solutions for the 21st Century. (Image: UITP)

Doing more with less. That was the message for public transport given to the 2200-strong audience by outgoing UITP President Sir Peter Hendy, Commissioner of Transport for London, at the 61st UITP World Congress and Exhibition in Milan.

“It’s the rallying cry of our time,” Mr Hendy said. “We can call on decision-makers to give us more support, but ultimately we have to pry ourselves away from depending too much on public funds. We have to find new models to pay for public transport, and talking constantly with the business community is going to be vital.”

Adding that the future for public transport was bright, Hendy added: “We are the people who create growth, we are the people who create jobs, we are the people who make cities more competitive and productive.”

This mood was echoed by many sectors, seeking to unify both rail and road in closer harmony: modes must work together to reduce the reliance on private automobiles at a time when the population densities of major cities around the world are set to reach crippling levels.

Those living in urban centres in 2014 accounted for 54% of the world’s total population – up from 34% in 1960 – and the shift towards denser urban living is continuing at a rate of around 1.5%
per year, meaning that 70% of the world’s citizens could be living in cities by 2030. For these cities to continue to prosper, the audience heard, mass transit and more sustainable modes need to develop in line with populations to cater for the growth.

UITP’s PTx2 initiative, which aims to double public transport’s market share by 2025, highlighted many of these themes and was referred to in an opening plenary address by UITP General Secretary, Alain Flausch. Mr Flausch told an audience of participants from 83 countries that very promising progress had been made in cities such as Oslo, London and Paris – which have increased public transport’s modal share by at least 10% since 2009 – while cities such as Prague, Berlin and Rome have reversed a decline. The situation in developing nations is less encouraging, however, due to increasing availability of cheap combustion-engined personal transport and minimal governmental measures to manage this growth.

A wider societal and economic shift requires the control of urban sprawl and better spatial planning, rather than just the provision of good quality public transport alone, he said: “Our strategy to double the market share of public transport worldwide by 2025 is about cities… our data shows that cities with a higher public transport market share use less of their urban space for transport. This space can then be used for recreational as well as economically-productive functions.

“We are going to continue to push for this because I am scared for the next generation. Without these changes big cities will become unlivable. Life in places like Mexico City and São Paulo is going to be difficult, and many other places are not going to be nice places to be. Something has to be done.

But whatever the future, mass transit is the solution for normal cities that do not have significant suburban sprawl. Heavy metros and trains that can transport large numbers of people will make the difference here.”

Technology as an enabler of growth

Responding to the rapidly-changing requirements of the modern passenger also needs to be high on the agenda for both transport operators and local and national authorities, with ‘smart’ technologies reaching maturity and becoming part of everyday life for millions. Taking its part within the ‘Internet of Things’, transport is becoming much more of a commodity, the audience heard, and operators need to adapt.

One area of innovation that had the exhibition halls buzzing was the idea of ‘whole journey’ booking and payment facilities. New Trapeze CEO Peter Schneck told TAUT enthusiastically of the idea of a ‘transport concierge’ service – effectively a system that allows you to book a door-to-door service anywhere on the planet, and one that ‘held your hand’ along every step of the journey through a simple-to-navigate app. “We need to be thinking smarter to look after the passenger,” he said.

Advances in contactless payment systems and GPS location allow for passengers to even travel without a ‘ticket’ as electronic systems and onboard readers will know which modes you are using and ensure that you are only charged for the exact route travelled. This idea of a ‘single travel account’ was also a feature of Cubic’s presentation, but such developments would require a great deal of trust on behalf of the passenger that their data, especially bank or credit card information, is transmitted securely between themselves and the operator.

Harnessing technology to reduce cost, construction times and provide better mobility options for all was something showcased by Alstom with its new scalable ‘Attractis’ turnkey tramway package. Alstom Transport President Henri Poupart-Lafarge told TAUT that start-to-finish construction time for a new 12km (7.5-mile) tramway capable of transporting between 6000 and 14 000 passengers per hour/per direction could be reduced to as little as 30 months, with a 20% reduction in overall costs through its integrated approach and adoption of proven solutions. This would make light rail an option for more cities constrained by costs and looking instead at BRT solutions, he added.

Attractis is labelled as effectively a ‘tramway in a box’ and brings together the firm’s existing Citadis tram family, Appitrack automated slab track tracklaying, HESOP regenerating substation technology and overhead or ground-level power supplies to optimise each element for a quicker design and build time. The real time (and therefore cost) savings would be made through closer integration of project teams in the early design phases to ensure that alignments are finalised and any utility diversions are addressed at an early stage to allow for an uninterrupted construction programme, he added. Alstom believes that it will be able to start offering Atractis as a turnkey package before the end of the year.

Emerging markets – and tram builders

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority used the Congress to announce further growth of its rail-based infrastructure. Mattar Al Tayer, RTA Director General and Chairman of the board of executive directors lauded the success of Dubai’s groundbreaking metro and tramway systems, saying that it was the agency’s ambition to extend the metro to 100km (62 miles) by 2020, 200km (124 miles) by 2025 and more than double that to 421km (261.6 miles) by 2030.

The RTA aims to raise the share of public transport trips in the emirate to 20% in the next five years and raise that further to 30% by 2030. Harnessing technology and bringing together modes into an integrated network, this also included the opportunities made possible by driverless cars, Al Tayer added.

Many conversations at the Congress were dominated by the agglomeration of Chinese rolling stock manufacturers and what that may also mean for the market.

One senior source from a major European-based tram builder told TAUT that the challenges from the newly-formed CRRC Corporation – the merger of China’s two rail giants was finalised on 1 June – lies in its strength to not only supply trams and metro cars at a lower cost than their more established western counterparts, but also that its technology will be packaged in state-supported projects that also include financing and construction. With large workforces and assembly plants, the speed with which new vehicle platforms and the latest technologies could reach customers from the design stage was also going to put established suppliers under pressure to innovate and form new strategies to stay ahead of the curve.

Asking not to be named, the source said that aggressive export strategies would see success in emerging markets such as Africa, Latin and South America, and that it would only be a matter of time before a European city chose CRRC as a supplier, providing a first vital foothold in the world’s largest LRT market. “In the past we had two giant companies fighting it out amongst themselves for a share of the export market – now we have one big one, and they have huge resources at their disposal and very deep pockets.”

The next edition is to be held in Montreal in May 2017 under the new name of ‘Global Public Transport Summit’.


From a feature that originally appeared in Tramways & Urban Transit – August 2015 issue (932).