Addressing the opening session of the World Congress on Railway Research (WCRR), which is being held in Milan this week, Ms Gioia Ghezzi, chair of the board of Italian State Railways (FS), urged the industry to be bold and improve its communication with the outside world, which she says is currently very poor.

"We are good at talking internally and amongst ourselves, and we are achieving great things, but unfortunately outside of the industry this is not widely known," Ghezzi said. "We also need to carry the industry's achievements to the politicians and the decision makers because they are the ones who will decide where the money is spent. We as an industry have a better job to do to convince them what is possible in a sustainable world."

Ghezzi told IRJ that she feels FS and the Italian rail industry does a good job of lobbying the Italian government, but from her experience, this is not shared in other European countries.

She also said that the industry needs to do more to work more closely with universities and the industry to deliver true innovation.

This view was shared by FS CEO Mr Renato Mazzoncini. "Greater innovation now comes from outside of our organisation, we need to accept this and use it to our advantage," he told delegates.

Mazzoncini also said that "the only enemy to rail is the private car" and as a result the rail industry needs to work with other transport modes more closely. He argued that these relationships will help to provide a service that is akin to the needs of modern-day passengers, which are no longer entirely embracing a culture of personal possession defined by car ownership, but with their smartphones at the ready, are increasingly demanding access to seamless and integrated public transport services.

"The world is changing, an access culture is now part of our DNA," Mazzoncini said. "As for this generation, many are choosing not to buy a car and, as public transport operators, that is an opportunity. However, to realise the true benefits, it is important for us to ally with other service providers so we can offer the seamless services that passengers now demand. In the next few years we have a real opportunity to leap forward."

Ms Barbara Morgante, CEO of Trenitalia, agreed that this changing social environment is altering the way Trenitalia works and argued that it is important that her employees embrace and use the same technologies as the operator, so that they understand their clients' needs better, and that working practices move with the times.

"If our employees are using their tablets at home, why are they not using them at work?" Morgante asked.

WCRR 2016 is showcasing the latest railway research from institutions from around the world that could shape the railway industry up to 2050. FS is hosting the event with 1000 delegates in attendance from 30 countries, with 440 papers presented in eight consecutive streams and an e-poster presentation. For the latest updates, follow IRJ on Twitter @railjournal.