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Debut international rail summit kicks off in Qatar

Leading international experts from the railway industry discussed the latest developments in optimising international cross-border rail transport at the inaugural ‘International Conference on Railway Interoperability, Standardisation and Harmonisation in the Middle East’ held in Doha.

The two-day event, being hosted by Qatar Railways Company, kicked off on March 30 with a record number of participants.

The objective is to develop a coherent, integrated, and competitive rail transport system to serve the region’s economy and society, said the organisers.

The debut event focused on three major topics – legal interoperability framework, railway harmonisation and standardisation and railway safety.

Organised by the International Union of Railways (UIC) Middle East; Otif, the Intergovernmental Organization for International Carriage by Rail and CIT, the International Rail Transport Committee, the conference has attracted more than 100 industry leaders.

Besides Qatar Rail, the key participants included Otif, UIC, CIT, SRO (Saudi Arabia), Etihad Rail (UAE), Oman Rail, Moroccan State Railways, UIC (Africa), TCDD (Turkey), RAI (Iran, Sina Rail Pars Transport), Afra (Afghanistan), Huawei Technologies (China) and Alstom Transport (France).

In his keynote speech, Abdulla Abdulaziz Al Subaie, Qatar Rail’s managing director, said: “By bringing together local, regional and international experts from the railway industry at UIC Rame, Qatar Rail aims to contribute to railway Interoperability, standardisation and harmonisation in the Middle East in general and the GCC region in particular.”

“In commitment to Qatar’s National Vision 2030, our company adheres to Qatar’s national transportation objectives enunciated in the Qatar National Development Framework (QNDF),” stated Al Subaie.

“In addition to the Doha Metro and the Lusail City Light Rail Transit, Qatar Rail envisages the development of a long-distance rail that will form part of the planned GCC cross-border railway network, which will enable a higher level of co-operation between the member states, and play a crucial role in the sustainable development of each country’s economy,” he added.

Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, the UIC director general, lauded Qatar Rail’s efforts to host the conference, and shed light on UIC Middle East’s vision and strategic action plan for 2013 to 2020, aiming to develop an integrated rail transport system in the region.

“Currently, the Middle East is the region with the world’s most ambitious projects and most advanced achievements in the field of rail transportation,” he noted.

In nearly all countries, high-performance railway systems for passenger and freight as well as for urban public transport are planned or in construction.

“The presence of multiple perspectives underlines the imperative need to use common standards, common rules for operations, and common legal systems. With interoperability and seamless cross-border operations, railways will be able to offer all the advantages of the rail system to the markets,” he added.

Besides UIC presentations that covered discussions on railway harmonisation and standardisation, François Davenne, Otif’s secretary general, addressed the legal interoperability framework, with a focus on Otif’s role of co-ordination and interfacing, in addition to the scope of Cotif and its contract law.

George Phillipos, the senior manager of network-wide assets in the operations and maintenance department at Qatar Rail, gave an insight on standardisation of engineering and asset standards in the GCC.

He also highlighted the challenges of harmonisation and standardisation in the cross-border transportation in the GCC region, and how each member state could contribute in facilitating the procedures.

The first day ended with a gala dinner, sponsored by Huawei Technologies Investment Company which enabled UIC Rame’s attendees to mingle, discuss potential partnerships and share expertise.

-Source – TradeArabia News Service, 30 March 2015

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