Events & Network

UIRR president Ralf-Charley Schultze in interview

Today in the interview: Ralf-Charley Schultze, the President of the International Union for Combined Road-Rail Transport (UIRR). UIRR is a non-profit organization that has been working to promote and improve combined transport for more than 70 years. Ralf has driven important initiatives and strategies for the future of combined transport at the European level during his tenure as President. We look forward to hearing more about his vision for the future of combined transport and his experiences as President of UIRR.
Vanessa Westermann
Dear Ralf-Charley, can you please introduce yourself to the readers?

I have been President of UIRR, the industry trade association for combined road-rail transport, since 2014. Before I started to represent the interests of CT, I was responsible for the development of CT at SBB Cargo in Basel for five years. From there, I switched to the customer side and was responsible for the development of the GEFCO Group's international multimodal transports.

What motivated you to become involved in combined rail-road transport (CT)?

Compared to pure road transport, combined rail-road transport results in greater efficiency across the board and significantly lower CO₂ emissions. By integrating other modes of transport at the right time and in the right place, logistics chains become more environmentally, socially and economically friendly. So it's a sustainability issue and a way to overcome silo thinking. It's important for the environment and for society.

And now let's get down to brass tacks: what challenges do you see for CT at the moment?

The biggest challenge at the moment is the new reality: climate change, the energy crisis, the war in Ukraine, capacity bottlenecks on infrastructure across Europe and inadequate operational quality. Political and economic instability mean that there is an increased risk of traffic shifting back from rail to road. Success requires the right framework conditions on the part of national and European legislation as well as in the development and expansion of infrastructure, especially in the terminals. The overarching goal is and remains to shift traffic from road to even more sustainable modes of transport.

What specifically would you like to see so that CT in Europe is further strengthened and expanded?

That's a long wish list. At the top of the list is the expansion of capacities, which also includes creative compromises in the prioritization of train paths. At present, the rail network is shared by three parties: passenger traffic, freight traffic and the construction sites. The right course must be set here. In addition, the legal framework would have to be adapted to reality, simplified and made enforceable. The current greening freight package comprises five legislative proposals: CT Directive, Euro Count Emission Regulation, Capacity Management Regulation, Train Driver Directive and the Road Vehicle Weights and Measures Directive, which have a direct impact on our business beyond the new TEN-T guidelines. In this respect, there is a momentum to regulate the right things now, not too much and not too little.Europe needs to become more harmonized and standardized, especially for cross-border transport. Interoperability is in good hands with ERA but not yet completed. Shippers want more intermodality to achieve their own sustainability goals. This goal can only be achieved together with all participants in a logistics chain. As an industry association, the UIRR is very close to the customer, knows the requirements and supports their practical implementation. With the Greening Freight Package, we have a unique opportunity to take the needs of shippers and forwarders seriously and to create a level playing field between all modes of transport. UIRR is working with its members, CT operators and terminal operators, to ensure that CT is recognized as a mode of transport in its own right and is reflected in the organization of DG Move in Brussels as well as in the transport ministries of the member states. With the CT4EU campaign, the UIRR accompanies the legislative process in Brussels and in the member states. This includes three studies that, among other things, show a roadmap on how and with which investments climate-neutral CT can be achieved by 2050.

What experiences have you had in your time as President of the UIRR and what are your most important insights and lessons learned so far?

The better understanding between the European institutions and the member states in matters of transport is the most important lever for achieving the transport turnaround. My experience is that shippers are basically willing to shift traffic. To accelerate this process, we have the right arguments and these have not lost their validity despite the new reality. It is important that we build the right bridges together with our members and the other participants in the logistics chain and work together in a spirit of trust. No one can do it alone.

What is the importance of digitalization for CT and how can the UIRR contribute to the sector benefiting from these developments?

The UIRR has drawn up a roadmap for digitalization in CT. Digitization is necessary for increased efficiency and more transparency. Data interoperability is as important as infrastructure and operational interoperability. UIRR has been actively involved in the European ELETA project, which has developed an algorithm for the estimated time of arrival of trains. This benefits the entire sector. UIRR is also a coordinator in the EDICT project, which involves standardized interfaces with the terminals, the tracking and tracing CESAR, and a TQM monitoring system for improving the punctuality of trains. This also benefits the sector, not least CT's customers. UIRR is also responsible for the management of the ILU code and is working on the development of standardized terminal codes and together with RNE on the roll-out of the Rail Facilities Portal for rail service facilities and better transparency.

We won't let you go without three answers to the following questions: favorite food, leisure tip, current (e)book on your coffee table?

Baba Ghanoush, The Opera in Liège and Robert Menasse: The Extension

Thank you for your time!


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