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RIA & DIT Exports Webinar – Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Austria

The Railway Industry Association (RIA) in partnership with the Department for International Trade (DIT), begun a series of Export Outreach webinars, on May 6th, as a forum for the UK rail industry to hear from international markets. During the first webinar last week delegates heard from DIT Trade Advisors based in Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Austria. They were provided with a detailed overview of each respective market including opportunities available to UK businesses.

“Austria…has always participated in a high level of foreign trade. Rail plays a key role in this”.

That was the main message of the overview given by Carina Gastelsberger, Commercial Attaché at DIT Austria.

Gastelsberger said there are many great things happening in the Austrian rail sector, but stated that, “the rail sector is facing tough competition worldwide”.

She provided an overview of the Austrian rail industry, the Austrian Federal Railways or the Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB) - the state-owned company which manages the passenger and freight networks, as well as managing the building and maintaining of infrastructure.

Gastelsberger emphasised major priorities for Austria’s rail network, including increasing capacity, refining connectivity and an increasing of speed. Electrification was a high priority as was a 300km increase of rail infrastructure across the country. The construction of a new metro line in Vienna and the Brenner Base tunnel were also listed as key projects.

She concluded her talk with the three major manufacturers in Rolling Stock: Siemens Mobility Austria, Bombardier’s Global Centre of Excellence for trams and light rail in Vienna and ÖBB Technical Services. She highlighted that the two OEMs currently already have projects in the UK.

Sofia Carvalhais, Senior Trade & Investment Adviser, DIT Portugal followed by stating that, "UK companies are very well regarded in Portugal for their innovation and high standards".

She introduced Infraestruturas de Portugal (IP) which manages all the procedures regarding road and railway infrastructures and Comboios de Portugal (CP) - the state-owned business that provides passenger rail transport services.

Carvalhais emphasised that the Portuguese Government have made transport one of its main priorities focusing particularly on rail. The Portuguese Government has introduced Ferrovia 2020, a major investment plan with the main objectives of increasing rail transport competitiveness by reducing travel times and cost, and increasing capacity. The plan also included improving international links and creating the conditions for rail interoperability by electrification. She also explained that in April 69% of the projects were in construction phase or completed but there was a remaining 31% waiting to be launched. She concluded by highlighting that Portugal is open to welcoming new products and technologies and working with the supply chain.

Isaac Morillas, Trade & Investment Adviser in Spain continued the conversation with an overview of the Spanish market. Morillas explained that Spain has a long history of rolling stock manufacturing, with six companies having a presence in the country: Talgo, CAF, Stadler Rail, Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier. Many of these companies were also working with UK businesses.

Regarding infrastructure Morillas said, “the main organisation in this is the Administrator of Railway Infrastructures (ADIF) which is the equivalent to Network Rail”.

ADIF operates a network of 12,000km, with Spain having the second largest high-speed network worldwide. He added that projects are mainly focused on maintaining the infrastructure and towards the decarbonisation of the network, stressing that are many opportunities for UK companies to get involved in.

Daniela Schild, Trade Officer for DIT Switzerland, concluded the webinar by describing Schweizerischen Bundesbahnen (SBB) which manages the majority of national services in Switzerland including both domestic and trans-alp freight.

Schild explained that rather than forcing on high-speed rail, Switzerland focused on making the network more reliable and ensuring a better-quality service. SBB are a major contributor to sustainable mobility (90% hydropower from own sources, 100% renewables from 2025) and have an almost fully electrified network.

She stressed there are many opportunities for UK suppliers including in digital transformation, cyber security, energy, efficiency/sustainability, punctuality, smart maintenance and refurbishment. Schild explained that OEM STADLER RAIL is the main player in terms of rolling stock, specialising in high-speed and intercity trains, suburban and regional transport trains, trams, light-rail vehicles and metros. They already have strong ties with the UK and are currently working on projects here. 

RIA’s Neil Walker closed the event by asking how the Coronavirus had affected their respective markets. All the advisors agreed that there had slowed down in international trade, but they are working closely and looking forward to this picking back up soon.

The Export Outreach Webinar Mini-Series is organised by the Railway Industry Association (RIA), in partnership with the Department for International Trade. For the final webinar in the series, register here.


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