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HOT NEWS: Challenges and Opportunities for Railway Companies and Suppliers in the Post Covid Period Ljublana 2022: Follow live coverage

HOT NEWS: Challenges and Opportunities for Railway Companies and Suppliers in the Post Covid Period Ljublana 2022: Follow live coverage
foto: Archive/Conference/Challenges and Opportunities for Railway Companies and Suppliers in the Post Covid Period Ljublana 2022: Follow live coverage
30 / 06 / 2022

The Challenges and Opportunities for Railway Companies and Suppliers in the Post-Covid era conference are taking place today in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The RAILTARGET editorial team is on-site and offers you the opportunity to follow live coverage online.

9.30 Opening of the conference - speakers Robert Server, Transport Association (CCIS), Dragoljub Rajić, director of Rail Cluster for southeast Europe, and Alice Houserová, editor-in-chief of the online magazine RAILTARGET. They mention topics such as post-Covid recovery, the need for more investment in rail, and improving rail freight transport, as Slovenia is such a hub between the Balkans and Europe. Then one of the topics is cyber security. 


9.45 Andre Mulec Bohinc, SPIRIT SLOVENIA - He talks about the Slovenian economy and its stability and great infrastructure. Slovenia is the shortest link between the Far East and Central and Eastern Europe. Overall, the Slovenian economy is export-oriented (87% of GDP), and exports are very diversified, as partners are Germany, Italy, and France. Furthermore, the local climate is favorable to investment and new firms. In addition, they aim to be as environmentally friendly as possible and use their resources efficiently. Some of the most important industries are the steel and electronics industries, where Slovenian companies can come up with innovative technologies. They create some of the best cooling systems for computers in the world. Then Slovenian engineers are also very capable in the field of robotics. The Slovenian economy is trying to be modern and green. 


10.00 Franc Klobučar, Goran Korošec - Slovenia has a program for railways to rebuild after Covid, and it is in the order of hundreds of millions of euros because Europe realizes that railways are a crucial part of the infrastructure and need to be invested in. Above all, it is environmentally friendly and does not pollute the environment as much. Slovenia is therefore trying to cooperate on the Green Deal as an EU member. And the local Ministry of Transport is responsible for distributing investments. Slovenia currently has over 1,200 km of railways, half of which is the backbone network. Investment in rail has been steadily increasing since 2016, reaching €510 million in 2021. It is important to continue this investment to make local railways compatible with the requirements of the TEN-T project. Also, to enable the railway to accommodate so-called long trains, which are up to 740 meters long. The benefit should then also facilitate the transport of goods to other parts of Europe. It will include the GSM-R and ETCS systems implementation, which will represent an increase in safety for the railway to prevent accidents. This system will later operate throughout Europe, and there will be greater interconnectivity. By 2030, we must achieve all European standards within the EU. One of the projects will be the Maribor - Šentilj line improvement. The total project value is EUR 286.6 million, and it is almost complete. It includes tunnels, new level crossings, and reducing noise caused by passing trains. The volume of freight traffic should then increase by almost a tonne to 8.19 tonnes. Another interesting project is to improve the Karavanke tunnel to increase its safety and technical level. The value of the project is EUR 79.31 million. Currently, the Pragersko hub improvement is being worked hard, the investment is almost EUR 90 million and is expected to be completed next year. The huge investment - EUR 672.60 million - is the Ljublana-Divača line. It will mainly involve the reconstruction of the stations in this section, the central station in Ljublana alone will require 109.86 million euros. However, work is progressing well, and there is strong optimism about this project.


10.25 Veronica Elena Bocci, DITECFER Coordinator, Vice President ERCI - ERCI was created in 2010 with only a few clusters, which gradually grew. Clusters are a tool for the implementation of the European Industrial Strategy of the European Commission. It also offers better conditions for employees (higher salaries) as well as easier conditions for companies to join a cluster. Internationalization is the key to the success of clusters and the European Industrial Strategy. Together we can find better and more efficient solutions and should take advantage of this cooperation. It is the S-ACCESS project. There is also cooperation with the US, for example. The main tool of S-ACCESS is direct deals (41.67%), but, for example, tenders are not so much (4.67%). The partners of this project are all over Europe, and the target markets are the USA, UK, and Norway. S-ACCESS will help you integrate into clusters and get better contracts for your company. Then we will also analyze the results achieved to bring even better strategies (SME questionnaire). We can see that the differences between clusters and big companies are not major, but some problems are solved differently. Again, technical problems required lower costs compared to large firms. The goals for the near future are to participate in selected conferences and trade shows, especially in the USA (CONEXPO, RAILWAY INTERCHANGE, or APTA EXPO). This way, we can help you find contacts with local manufacturers and suppliers more easily. Another key to success is the use of modern technology. This cluster is even bigger, with 17 partners as well as more than 30 other organizations. The leitmotif of these efforts is to be modern, green, and efficient. The technologies we are talking about are artificial intelligence, Blockchain, connectivity, mobility, robotics, photonics, and/or nanotechnology. All these goals can be fulfilled through 'strategic alliances', and you will be clustered based on your needs with companies with similar needs. In this way, the most optimal solution can be found. There are 15 of these clusters. The Blockchain Network will make access to modern technology even easier - you will get tools, training, and help with implementation. In short, we are trying to help as efficiently as possible. At the same time, Hack and Match events are taking place to connect more deeply and find answers to more questions. If you get involved in this program, you will get information on what technologies you need, how and where to invest, etc. The actual 'strategic alliances' will start this summer, and later, in September 2022, work will begin on a pan-European strategic alliance. It will last for the next 12 months. The final key is ClusterXchange. It's like an Erasmus for entrepreneurs. You will visit another country to see how they solve problems, get to know new markets and new contacts. The first one will be in Copenhagen in October 2022 (3 days), and the next one will be in Saxony, also in October 2022 and also three days.


10.50 Alexander Burrows, Director of Enterprise and Innovation, University of Birmingham - While rail is affected by global events, it is also an opportunity and a chance for economic development. It is environmentally friendly compared to the kind of trucks that clog up the roads. We should focus on digitization, decarbonization, and innovation of rail. Birmingham station is the only station that gets you everywhere in Britain. The BCRRE has a 50-year tradition and focuses on multiple disciplines, namely things and disciplines related to rail. We work with companies such as SIEMENS, Hitachi, RSSB, and ALSTOM and are working on a VRT project for Britain. Our contacts are not only limited to Europe but also to Asia, such as China and Singapore. Our main themes are in the areas of easier traffic control on the rail, decarbonization of rail, autonomous systems, cyber security, implementing innovation, and preparing future generations for rail. The aim is then to translate research into reality so that it has an impact on practical life. So how do we implement these innovations? Based on the research, we get the development going, then the market launch, and through that, we get information for future research. We also try to support the rail industry to work well - that's where we, as a university, help through our research. It supports the innovation needed for the rail industry while meeting the needs of the customer. Then also, it helps reduce costs, improve efficiency, and to be able to use the latest technologies. It is mainly in the area of digitization and decarbonization where we need to help companies find the best solutions. We don't only work with large companies, but also, as a university, with smaller and medium-sized companies. Alongside this, we have formed the BCRRE Rail Innovation Cluster and are proud members of the European Rail Clusters Initiative. In addition to this, we are building a new research center at our university so that we can help more companies. One of the big projects is the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN), which aims to bring academia together with industry so that new technologies can be more easily applied to operations. So far, 16 universities and 20 companies are participating. It could radically improve the efficiency of Britain's railways. And just before Covid, we set up a similar project for South-East Europe - SEERRIN - which works similarly and can then link up with UKRRIN. It will help the whole region. Then it will also help with funding, getting the right experts, innovation, access to new markets, cooperation with other companies, and most importantly, and above all, simply being the best in rail. The last topic is hydrogen trains. It is a little project of ours. We wanted to prove that this technology has a future on the railway, and we just took our concepts to the next level and created a hydrogen train. The prototype went out in 2019, the next one followed in 2020, and it was already going 80 km/h last year. We managed to come up with a mass-producible train that reached speeds of up to 120 km/h. The hydrogen is stored as a gas, for space, and then it goes into a fuel cell that converts the hydrogen into electricity, and then there's a battery. This is to help with the lag between the cell - it's up to a few seconds after the driver hits the throttle. The fuel cells are already quite small (200kg). And now we're working on converting diesel locomotives to hydrogen, and these could go into service early next year. Modernization is crucial because we can build on what we already have rather than constantly buying new locomotives.


11.20 WONROS Technologies - We aim to reduce the noise coming from the railway into the surroundings, and we have managed to eliminate it with brakes placed directly on the track. They also reduce the wear and tear on train brakes by up to 8 times. For this, we received an award from the European Commission in 2004 (European Business Award for the Environment). The main benefits of this solution are an increase in the lifetime of the railway by up to 300%. It also reduces overall vibrations. We use CHFC (Composite Hardly-Fluid Compounds), a lubricant with more than 40% solids, which is the key to efficiency and then lower consumption. The competition usually has 3-5% of these solids. And the major benefit is that there is no increase in braking distances of trains, in some cases even a reduction in braking distances. This solution is safe, and thanks to less wear and tear, the investment in this technology can be recouped in just two years, saving thousands or tens of thousands of euros year on year.


11.35 Alex Berzokić, MIND Park - In MIND Park there is, for example, a steel plant, an aluminum plant, or a SIEMENS production plant, and our team is trying to deliver the best infrastructure solutions. The members are the already mentioned SIEMENS, then IME-AUTOLIFT, and AMM. All this is on 60,000 m2. Other elements of the Park are the connection to the main highway, then the connection to the railway, and the construction of an airport and a logistics hub is planned. MIND Park is part of the MIND Group, which helps companies in Serbia with various problems and challenges, such as security, HR, IT, and/or entering foreign markets. We will provide the necessary support for the company to get up and run. Not to forget the canteen, our people are not indifferent. We have recently built a new canteen, and it serves 400 diners a day. We have also built a nursery for our employees. Then we concentrate on solutions in production, from design, through production to coating. Our partners are ALSTOM, BOMBARDIER, ABB, and the ŠKODA Group. We also have a QA institute where there are testing laboratories and research facilities. It is linked to plans for a science and technology park as a center for research and cooperation in Serbia. So it will have the task of connecting (e.g. universities and companies) and can bring resources and equipment for such activities. At the same time, there are also training programs for the needs of the Serbian industry (CNC operators, welders, locksmiths, mechanics) - this is part of MIND EDU. We are going even higher through the universities to attract the best talent, and currently, we have more than 30 students on placement. We also organize various events for students, such as a hackathon.


11.50 Marko Radovic, RCSEE/BSN - Today. our organization has 55 members from 12 countries. We try to connect with local industry and maintain cooperation. Based on this, we then work to increase efficiency, also through the presentation of local products and innovative technologies. We then organize other internationalization activities within the cluster, such as workshops, and trade missions, and try to stimulate cooperation within the cluster. It then helps companies to become more visible. We also organized the SEE Mobility fair, which was the first time in Belgrade (2017), with 25 exhibitors from 11 countries. Last year it was already 40 exhibitors from 16 countries, the Minister of Transport, ambassadors from the UK and Poland came. Our trade missions focus on concluding bilateral and multilateral agreements between companies. We also try to present ourselves as a cluster at trade fairs, but we will see what the future of these activities will be. Covid has slowed down considerably. We are members of ERCI - we are trying to work between clusters across Europe to help push them to a global level, especially SMEs. Collaboration is essential to achieve these goals.


12.00 Conclusion of the conference

Thank you for watching the live coverage, and we will bring you interesting interviews, forks and videos from the conference. Keep an eye on our website and social networks. 

We look forward to seeing you on the next live coverage!