The challenges faced by public transport are numerous: rapid urbanisation, climate change, finding alternative funding sources, and adopting a more-customer oriented approach whilst ensuring regulatory frameworks are adequate. To meet these challenges, public transport must change. It needs to perform better and more efficiently and be at the forefront of offering services that meet changing passenger expectations and lifestyles.


Urban rail is also facing its own particular challenges. The over-exposure of high speed rail in the media and debates disguises the fact that the vast majority of rail journeys are still short to medium-distance trips made on commuter or metro trains and trams within the boundaries of metropolitan areas.

Whilst local rail remains as popular as ever, it will need to deal with various challenges in the coming years. In Milan, leading industry figures will discuss how to build new systems affordably in tight economic times; how to serve spatially-growing and built-up cities effectively as well as how to reconcile the short life cycles of equipment and software with the long design cycles of railway assets.

The event will also put rail operations in Milan and the Lombardy region in the spotlight. Milan's public transport operator ATM, which carries around 1.2 million passengers per day, has recently invested in 30 latest generation metro trains capable of carrying 1232 passengers each which, combined with a new signalling system already in operation, will reduce headways to just 100 seconds. ATM has also begun operation on part of the new metro Line 5 and extended two other lines as well as reinforcing its metro operations more generally following the introduction of congestion charging in the city.

FNM Group, Italy's second largest train operator, manages 300km of the regional rail network in Lombardy covering 120 stations and carrying more than 650,000 passengers daily. The recession has caused many people to move out of Lombardy and Milan, creating new commuters and increasing demand for transport. To cater for this, FNM has invested €700m in the modernisation and development of infrastructure, such as the four-track line between Milan Cadorna and Bovisa, as well as €1bn in fleet renewal, which has helped to contribute to a rail revival in the region.

At the 2009 UITP congress in Vienna, the sector set itself an ambitious target: double the market share of public transport worldwide by 2025 compared with 2005, also known as PTx2. The vast array of innovative solutions on display at the following congresses in Dubai and Geneva were a testament to the galvanising effect the target has had on the industry. Six years down the line in Milan, we'll be taking the time to assess just how far the industry has come in reaching that goal.

In Milan, UITP will be rewarding mobility projects that are not only innovative and inspiring but those that are making a concrete contribution towards reaching this doubling goal. Judged by an international panel of public transport experts, the Global Public Transport Awards in Milan will give recognition to local mobility projects introduced in the past two years that demonstrate an ambitious vision in the fields of customer experience, operational and technical excellence, smart financing and business models, mobility demand management, design and public transport strategy. With the 2025 deadline now just 10 years away, Milan will be a key milestone in gauging just how much progress the world of public transport has made in meeting the doubling target.

The 2013 UITP exhibition in Geneva attracted some 25,000 visitors and 320 exhibitors across the 30,000m² of exhibition space. This year we expect exhibitors to unveil several world premieres, while a series of Expo Focus Sessions will offer a dedicated space for industry pioneers to display their latest technological developments, solutions and products. The sessions will offer delegates an interactive forum to explore the most-recent trend-setting developments covering all aspects of public transport.

The 61st UITP congress comes at a critical point for public transport, with the sector facing numerous challenges but also opportunities. It will be in this vein that decision makers from all over the globe and from all layers of the industry will come together in Milan to exchange the creative ideas and solutions that will collectively determine the urban mobility landscape of tomorrow's cities. I look forward to seeing you there.