THE planet is facing a potential catastrophe if global warming predictions come true, and yet pollution is still rising in most cities around the world as more and more cars and trucks choke urban streets. A major expansion of electric public transport along with more cycling and walking and measures to restrict road users should help reduce pollution and CO2 emissions. But are we building new rail networks in our cities fast enough to meet the challenge?
“It’s never fast enough because demand for mobility is growing,” Mr Mohamed Mezghani, secretary general of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), told IRJ. “We need mass transit
but the time to market and commissioning is very long.
We need to build metro and suburban lines much faster.
“The decision-making process takes a long time. It is not just the time needed to build a new line. It is also our dependence on politicians which has an effect especially when there are elections, as new-elected politicians can change direction. Continuity in transport policy is vital.”
Some cities have managed to maintain a consistent transport policy. “In London there has been continuity in maintaining the congestion charge and developing the transport system despite a change in the ruling party,” Mezghani says.
Mezghani believes turnkey projects can also help to save time, by avoiding the need for multiple tenders. “The tender process is very long, so if we can group tenders together we can save time,” he says.
Construction causes a lot of disruption for citizens, so some cities try to limit its impact which often means projects take longer to complete than is strictly necessary. “We should find ways to compensate people for the disruption to ensure we make adequate progress with the project,” Mezghani suggests.
In 2018, 121 urban rail projects were completed totalling 1270km, compared with 1348km in 2017 which the UITP says was a record year. The 6% reduction in 2018 compares with an annual average growth rate of 36% over the past four years.
Last year’s slowdown was caused by a reduction in the number of new metro openings. Nevertheless, 75 metro infrastructure projects were completed last year in 17 countries and 39 cities adding another 960km to metro networks around the world. Of these, 62% were new lines and 38% extensions. Urumqi in China opened its first metro line in 2018, bringing the total number of cities with a metro to 181. In 2018, 46 single LRT infrastructure projects were completed in 40 cities totalling 309.4km
While China has built around 100 metro lines in just 10 years, the speed of construction in China is incomparable with the rest of the world. Nevertheless, major projects are underway in other countries, such as the ambitious Grand Paris Express scheme, and in Riyadh where six metro lines are being built simultaneously.
With the exception of China, Mezghani says funding is a global concern both in emerging and developed countries. “On the one hand, we need to invest more in public transport to reduce CO2 emissions, while on the other hand there are fewer public resources available, and public transport has to compete for funding with other sectors such as health. It is important to have dedicated funding for public transport. For example, in Switzerland a fixed amount is dedicated to rail each year. Morocco has a fund fed by VAT managed by the Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for urban transport, to which cities can apply. The US state sales tax initiatives are another example.
“We also need to look at non-fare revenue generation. For example, JR East earns 36% of its revenue from non-transport activities - public transport is not subsidised in Japan. The Hong Kong model involving property development over stations and depots is another example. Riyadh has already earned €250m by selling naming rights for stations even before the first train has run. Dubai is also offering naming rights for stations. New York will introduce congestion charging soon, following Singapore, London and Stockholm.”
The UITP’s role is to support its members and promote public transport solutions. However, Mezghani says the UITP is mode-agnostic. “We don’t favour one mode over another, or give visibility to any industrial interests. However, it’s important that we increase awareness on the pros and cons of each mode, in terms of costs, technology, easiness of integration with the existing network, operations, maintenance, staff qualifications, and so on.
“Long-term implications for the viability and cost-efficiency of the solutions are critical. UITP encourages the use of conventional technologies over proprietary solutions. We encourage sharing between members to make it possible to learn from their experiences, and we disseminate case studies or develop benchmarking initiatives. Very importantly, we organise many training sessions covering the modal choice. We encourage our members to think medium and long term and avoid taking decisions to build systems that can’t be extended easily or are not standardised.”
There is also a lot which can be done to increase the capacity of existing systems to get more out of what already exists, for example by replacing old rolling stock with new trains which have more doors, a better internal layout and full-width inter-car gangways, or where the loading gauge permits replacing single-deck trains with double-deck trains, as happened on RER Line A in Paris. “In Moscow the new Moskva metro cars have 10% more capacity,” Mezghani observes.
Introducing signalling systems that permit shorter headways between trains is another way to increase capacity. “Automating existing lines is part of the solution, such as on lines 1 and 4 in Paris for example, and many are following, the next being Glasgow, one of the oldest metros in the world,” Mezghani says. “There are now around 1000km of driverless metro lines in the world, and almost all new metro lines are driverless. Increasing capacity through technical innovation and optimisation is one of the key objectives of Shift2Rail.
“There are also examples where demand management makes it possible to better use the existing capacity to avoid investing immediately in new rolling stock. For example, in Singapore and Melbourne free journeys are offered before 07.00 to encourage customers to avoid travelling during the peak hour thereby optimising train loading. However, in congested cities, if we are serious about becoming the backbone of mobility, optimisation is not enough and new schemes are unavoidable to absorb the growing patronage.
“Public transport is not simply mass transit anymore, but the means to improve the quality of life in cities. The development of new mobility solutions such as ride hailing and car sharing is redefining public transport. It is about doubling this combined mobility so that we don’t need to use a car anymore.
“In Europe, and even the United States, we are seeing a reduction in the number of people with driving licences. Those who are 25 years old today have fewer driving licences than people who are 35 or 45. However, in developing countries the growth of car ownership is very strong because there are often no alternatives. In these countries road congestion is becoming much worse even though car ownership is still relatively low. In Africa, there is one car for every 10 people compared with one car for every two people in Europe.”
The UITP’s PTx2 initiative to double the market share of public transport by 2025 compared with 2005 is continuing. “The trend is positive but unequal,” Mezghani says. “In some countries, particularly in the Middle East, we will more than double public transport’s market share. Conversely, in Russia the challenge is to sustain the use of public transport because it was already very high.
“We were very ambitious for Africa when we started PTx2, but the pace of development is very slow. The challenge in Africa is creating an awareness of the need for public transport in the first place. The image of public transport is that it is only for poor people who have no choice, so governments tend to invest in roads instead which simply acerbates congestion in the long run.
“The need for some form of public transport is greatest in sub-Saharan Africa. But we can’t simply say that informal public transport must be replaced with mass transit. Indeed, on-demand transport was born in Africa, and to a certain extent in Asia. Ride hailing is a digital form of on-demand transport through an app.”
Mezghani says one of the problems is that African cities do not have transport authorities as transport planning is centralised in national ministries of transport or simply lacking. “It is only through transport authorities that you can have a comprehensive approach. Dakar in Senegal is developing its public transport well because it set up a transport authority 10 years ago. We are working with organisations like the African Development Bank and the African Union to convince politicians of the importance of decentralising responsibility for public transport to cities. The next step is to bring in the skills needed to analyse the problems and come up with solutions.
“We have training programmes in Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania to address this problem.
“African cities often don’t have any bus networks, and with the limited funds available, we need to accept that they need to start with bus rapid transit (BRT),” Mezghani explains.
Unlike the private car, public transport is rarely door-to-door and often involves different modes to complete a journey. The challenge is to make it as seamless and as easy to use as possible. Commuters know their regular route to work without giving their journey a moment’s thought, but for occasional users and visitors public transport can be daunting with complicated fare structures, difficult-to-use ticket machines, and poor signage.
As Mezghani points out, there are many cities, such as Amsterdam, Hong Kong, London, Milan, Singapore, Stockholm and Vienna, where it is easy to move around using public transport, but there are far more where it is not.
“Seamless public transport starts with the way we define our networks and not mode by mode,” Mezghani explains. “Singapore wants 80% of its population to be within 15 minutes of a metro station. You clearly need to create an integrated system at the planning stage to achieve this.
“It is very important that we don’t define the service technically, but from the customer’s point of view, and we must have integrated ticketing systems which are easy to understand.”
Mezghani says the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) approach will help by integrating information, journey planning and payment systems so each solution is defined by the journey, the time of day and affordability. “This will generate diversity in the way we use public transport so that we become very flexible in how we use different modes,” Mezghani says.
There are already examples of such integration. On January 31, Uber announced its first integration with public transport: a partnership with Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD). Uber users can now plan their trip with real-time information and end-to-end directions in the Uber app. Soon, passengers will also be able to purchase and use RTD tickets through the Uber app.
Uber says it recognises that public transport and Uber can be a powerful combination. On May 7, Uber relaunched its London app to integrate live rail and bus data from Transport for London so that users can compare modes when planning a journey.
In January 2018 a new law was introduced in Finland to allow public transport agencies to sell their tickets to third parties for resale with other services. “In Helsinki, users can buy monthly passes which give them access to all modes of transport,” Mezghani says.
Since January, the UITP has acted as the coordinator of the €1.5m EU-funded Shift2MaaS project within Shift2Rail. The objective is to create one app for Europe which combines all modes and enables passengers to buy one ticket covering several modes.
When defining jobs and recruiting staff, we need to include women on the panel because men tend to recruit men
Shift2MaaS will benefit from technologies developed within the Shift2Rail Innovation Programme 4 such as ticket booking, validation, payment and journey tracking. Concepts and solutions will be tested in Lisbon and Malaga and the project will conclude in January 2021.
“Digitalisation is the main trend which is impacting our business,” Mezghani asserts. “But we need the right people. Everywhere we are struggling to build the capability of our workforces. Despite increasing automation, public transport is still labour intensive, and we need people to provide good customer service. In Amsterdam and Hamburg, for example, public transport is the number one employer.
“We are competing with other employers to attract the right people, and we have more and more international players so employment is becoming global. In the Middle East operators are recruiting people from Europe and India because they don’t have skilled people locally. Even Singapore is recruiting worldwide. Public transport operators are also competing with other industries such as banks and telecoms companies, and for cyber security specialists.
“We need to build strong employer branding in public transport, and we need to involve more women. On average, only 17% of public transport employees in Europe are women. The proportion is higher in Russia but lower in developing countries except for Kochi in India, which is the only metro in the world to employ more women than men - 52% of its employees are female. We are starting to see more women on the boards of public transport companies. Paris Transport Authority (RATP) has a balance board, for example.”
The UITP’s PT4ME campaign is aimed at serving women passengers better and involving more women in public transport by promoting the benefits of a diverse workforce. “When defining jobs and recruiting staff, we need to include women on the panel because men tend to recruit men,” Mezghani says.
“We signed a joint declaration with the International Transport Workers Federation in February to encourage more women to work in public transport. This is an opportunity, because we need people and the potential is there. It’s a win win solution if we can get more women to work in public transport,” Mezghani concludes.
IRJ on tour
MEMBERS of the IRJ team attended three important railway events in June . Publisher Jonathan Chalon, together with David Briginshaw and Keith Barrow, attended the Swedish capital Stockholm visiting the UITP Global Public Transport Summit which took place on June 9-12. IRJ also reported from the event and provided a daily e-mail newsletter, keeping our subscribers up-to-date with the latest news from the summit.
IRJ’s sales team was represented by Louise Cooper and Michael Boyle who were also in Stockholm to discussing marketing opportunities along with Chloe Pickering from IRJ Pro.
Kevin Smith travelled to Narvik, Norway, to report on the latest developments in heavy-haul freight from the International Heavy Haul Association’s STS conference which ran from June 10-14.
Finally, David Briginshaw attended the International Wheelset Congress which took place in Venice from June 16-20.