A YEAR ago, the UIC's then newly-appointed director general Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux (pictured) spoke to IRJ about the challenges the organisation faced in the wake of an intensely volatile period. The talk then was of an urgent need to restore confidence, and the motivation to work for and through the UIC's members.
Last month's Global Rail Freight Conference, hosted by the UIC and Russian Railways, attracted delegates and speakers from around the world, making it an appropriate place to reflect on the global outlook Loubinoux is eager to promote.

"In May 2009 I felt there was an urgent need to return to the core values of the UIC and develop a more efficient structure for the organisation," he explains. "I believe we have restored confidence with our step-by-step development of a globalised structure. We are seeing large numbers of members who want to participate in the UIC again."

Last year the General Assembly adopted new statutes, which means members' voting power corresponds to their financial contribution, technical bodies are open to all members, and the UIC's finances have been restructured. The Executive Board remains in place as a policy body and steering group, but is now subject to the same voting rules as the General Assembly. Representation of each region continues as before, but each railway will have the same number of votes on the Executive Board as it does in the General Assembly.

There are now four technical departments within the UIC: Passenger, Freight, Rail Systems, and Fundamental Values. Loubinoux believes the separation of passenger and freight activities was vital to reflect the respective needs of these sectors. "The life cycle of investments in the passenger sector is totally different to that for freight," he says.

Rail Systems looks at everything from infrastructure and rolling stock to signalling, energy consumption and train dynamics. "Everyone who's worked in the rail industry knows that you need an integrated approach to run the network successfully, much more than road, air, or sea transport does," says Loubinoux. "There's a lot more to this than the relationship between wheel and rail, and it's because of this interdependence that we established Rail Systems."

Fundamental Values has five divisions: Sustainable Development, Research, Safety, Security, and Expertise Development. "It was said at this conference that rail will develop with a new generation of managers, but there has been a clear gap in the transmission of knowledge. The UIC has the potential to develop networks between members that could help to answer the need for training."

Loubinoux is keen to involve young rail professionals in the work of the UIC. "We have invited members to send secondees to us for a two-year period to act as a bridge to their region. This will make the UIC an international melting pot of competences and cultures from all over the world. Members in Africa and the Middle East are very interested in this. It demonstrates the UIC is an international platform for training, facilitating the transfer of skills and knowledge."

"We now have three core values. Unity, because members are free to work together on ideas, unified at a global level. Universality, because our work has such broad scope. And finally solidarity, because it's what our members want."

The UIC's finances were restructured last year, and Loubinoux says this has already produced a leaner, more transparent organisation. The improved financial situation has allowed it to reduce core membership fees this year, and Loubinoux says these charges will be cut again next year. "We hope that in return our members will be able to spend more on projects," he says. "This is important because we want the UIC to be recognised as a place where the standards of the rail industry can be developed at a global level."

In addition to the four technical departments, the UIC is focusing on building global cooperation in five key areas:
• the environment and sustainable development
• safety and security
• freight and freight corridors
• signalling, and
• standardisation.

Loubinoux says there is high demand among members for projects across all of these themes. "Members are asking for more projects and we're seeing more demand from Asia and the Middle East, which is very positive. We are also initiating multi-regional projects where there is a common interest in a particular issue. It's only through our projects that we will bring added value to our members."