A change in the business segment will help develop the services portfolio

Interview with Hans Rat, Secretary General UITP

In his interview for our magazine, Hans Rat, UITP Secretary General, explains the importance of a two-fold increase in the public transport market share at international level with the set purpose of developing the business sector and supporting passengers in choosing public transport. Urban transport priorities are emphasised by five strategic elements: financing, urban governing, management of demand, business sector and services tailored to market demands. All these are backed by UITP’s theme: change.  Urban transport in Eastern Europe requires the implementation of modernisation projects, both rolling stock and infrastructure. Also, awareness on the importance of public transport is higher in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, where many people choose public transport services and less individual motorised transportation, compared to other regions. The main priority and, at the same time, the most difficult task for the authorities and public operators in these regions is maintaining the market share to the highest level possible. This will be made possible by a series of measures that could generate an attractiveness growth of public transport.

Railway Pro: UITP’s vision is to double the global market share of public transport by 2025, under the name “PTx2”. What  exactly does UITP do to support the achievement of this goal? Can you talk about an evaluation carried out by UITP in what concerns this Strategy (what has been achieved until now, what was impossible to achieve)?

Hans Rat: In the framework of PTx2, UITP’s role is to provide support for the sector as a whole and UITP’s members in particular to help them boost their business and increase the market share of public transport. On a practical level, UITP is developing a communication toolkit for this purpose.
Since the launch of PTx2 in 2009, UITP has already recorded many best practice examples of cities implementing strategic master plans and ambitious policy measures aiming to raise the public transport market share. In Europe, the Swedish ‘Doubling Project’ has fixed a long-term goal of doubling the public transport market share and the volume of travels by the year 2020, through the development of a new economic model and by raising awareness amongst decision-makers and the general public. Lille has set the ambition of doubling the public transport market share by 2020 by enlarging its offer of transport modes (bus, metro, bike) and by developing and integrating new passenger services, such as e-ticketing.
In the rest of the world, Sao Paulo, Brazil, has invested EUR 8 billion in the ‘ExpansionSP’ programme to extend the metro network from 60 to 370 km by 2014. Dubai, which will host the UITP World Congress and Exhibition from 10-14 April, has already increased its public transport modal split from 5% in 2005 to 11% in 2010 and its objective is to reach 34% in 2020 via an ambitious master plan that foresees USD 10 billion of investment in public transport by 2020.
The large number of applications received for the ‘UITP PTx2 Awards’, which will be handed over at the UITP Congress in Dubai, shows the high level of commitment of authorities, governments, public transport operators and the industry to this common goal. Among these applications many come from Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia. One  of them comes from the Romanian city of Alba Iulia, which has an ambitious plan to integrate public transport services in the Alba County. It goes without saying that UITP welcomes and supports such activities.

Railway Pro: The World Congress in Dubai, to be held from 10-14 April 2011, will deal with the revision of the priorities established by UITP for doubling the market share. Can you give us details about this revision?

Hans Rat: When PTx2 was launched in 2009, the idea was for it to serve as a ‘wake-up call’ to raise awareness and get people thinking. The World Congress in Dubai will mark the time for action; this is reflected in the Congress and Exhibition slogan ‘Boosting Public Transport: Action!’
PTx2 is divided into two parts: the first part reminds us why the international public transport community – governments, local authorities, operators and the industry – should invest in public transport. The second part indicates what measures should be taken to reach our common goal of doubling the public transport market share worldwide. The priorities of the sector are actually highlighted around five strategic axes: financing and funding; urban governance; demand management; business culture; and lifestyle services. This is underpinned by a constant leitmotiv: change.

Railway Pro: How do these segments manage to merge and supply an integrated transport?

Hans Rat: The five strategic axes of PTx2 are interdependent. An effective public transport system that is harmoniously integrated into the urban fabric requires wise allocation of urban space that can only be achieved by joining up urban governance and public transport demand management efforts.
A change in public transport companies’ business and corporate culture will help them develop a portfolio of lifestyle
services that meet customers’ evolving mobility needs and new usages.
UITP is developing a range of solutions and supporting tools to help its members achieve this ‘doubling’ through the five axes. Just as an example, UITP has recently published tender structure recommendations, guidelines for setting up an organising authority (supported by examples), a handbook on public transport financing and statistics on employment and public transport.
However, the five axes of PTx2 make allowance for cultural diversity: the solutions given are not simply transferable from one continent to another; they are best  practices that can be adapted to suit each context. Different local features will require one axe to be developed more than another. But only by putting all of them in place can the public transport market share be doubled worldwide.

Railway Pro: The implementation of several projects at lower prices is ideal for local authorities, but the financial downturn has affected the entire public transport system. Under the circumstances, how can the authorities meet the public transport demand?

Hans Rat: In the current economic context, the public transport sector is often penalised as a result of investment cuts due to the constant and increasing budget pressure on public authorities. But what is often forgotten is that public transport can represent a major boost to the economy. Value created by public transport amounts to EUR 150 billion (1.2% of GDP) in Europe. Public transport produces wider economic benefits and is a major job provider: in Europe, public transport operators alone create 1.2 million direct jobs. Moreover, public transport operators are the largest employers in cities such as Barcelona, Amsterdam, Brussels and Dublin, and such jobs cannot be outsourced.Nevertheless, the growing public transport demand requires stable and secure income. A new paradigm for investments and funding in public transport is therefore needed. New resources can be found through daring or unconventional funding options – non-fare revenues, earmarked taxes, carbon financing – reducing the dependence on public revenues and developing new partnerships with the private sector. National and local authorities can play an important role by supporting the development of the right policy framework to ease access to funding, especially through suitable fiscal rules and accounting standards.

Railway Pro: In terms of greening public transport, what do you think about the problem of reinforcing the markets of new technologies for non-polluting vehicles and alternative fuels?

Hans Rat: Transport is responsible for 23% of energy-related CO2 emissions globally and for 13% of all GHG emissions. At a global level we are dealing with a shortage of traditional fossil fuels and need to find alternative energy sources. A radical shift towards non-polluting vehicles and alternative fuels is therefore necessary.
UITP has always endorsed greening transport and has several initiatives in this area: the UITP Charter on Sustainable Development; the UITP bus tender structure recommendations and the UITP recommendations on standardised fuel consumption methodology for buses (SORT). The latter have been taken up in the creation of the EU Clean Vehicle Portal, launched in December 2010 at the European Commission. This tool is based on Directive 2009/33/EC that came into force last December and introduces compulsory sustainability criteria in bus tenders for the first time. This will give a major boost to the green vehicles market and will accordingly help to improve the quality of our urban environments. Nevertheless, the cleanest and most energy-efficient vehicle is the one full of passengers, running at a high travel speed and, above all, one that moves! Hence, whilst reinforcing the clean technologies market is important, we also need integrated land-use policies that provide dedicated lanes and other prioritisation measures for public transport vehicles, which will make public transport more attractive and efficient.
On this basis, I would not include electric cars as a means of greening transport. Although they are often perceived as an answer to issues of pollution and lack of fossil fuels, they do not eliminate the congestion problem, the cost of which amounts to 2% of GDP. A large uptake of electric cars will eat up precious urban space, not only on the road, but also in terms of the parking and infrastructure necessary to power them (i.e. nuclear power stations). Cities are already overcrowded and will not be able to afford the space reduction caused by all these extra cars, as it’s widely known that some urban neighbourhoods are already saturated with traditional cars.

Railway Pro:
Since 2007, when UITP established “the Eurasian Division”, the number of projects in the region has significantly increased. In September 2010, the Moscow Declaration was signed aiming at implementing reliable policies for the development of transport networks. What can you tell us about the vision of cities in Eurasia about public transport? Is it a unitary vision or are there different directions in what concerns public transport development?

Hans Rat: In Central and Eastern European countries, a modal split that was clearly in favour of public transport fell significantly in the early 1990s, when the change to market economies fuelled huge increases in car ownership. However, in many (mostly larger) European cities, the market share of PT has stabilised or even increased considerably over the same period.
A common problem in Central and Eastern European countries is the real need to upgrade the ageing rolling stock and existing infrastructure to modern standards. Traditionally this has been funded by the public sector, yet limited public funds are available in Europe and there is strong competition for them.
In recent years, the situation has started to improve, as national and local authorities realised the importance of public transport for economic and social development, but a common vision of public transport development is yet to come.

Railway Pro: What is the role of public transport in developing the economies of the emerging countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia?

Hans Rat: The role of public transport in the countries of Eastern Europe and
Eurasia is greater than in the industrially developed countries because public transport has a much higher modal share. A large number of passenger trips are still made by public transport in comparison to Western European cities. Against this backdrop, in the last fifteen years or so private car ownership in these countries has started its galloping growth resulting in high levels of congestion and lack of road and parking space in cities which were not built to deal with such a motorisation rate.
For these reasons, the main priority and the most difficult challenge for these countries’ authorities and public transport operators is to maintain their current high PT market share. This is entirely possible, if a series of measures that make public transport more attractive to citizens is introduced, as suggested in the UITP PTx2 strategy.

Recorded by Pamela Luică

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