CFR Călători: Investments for quality improvement will help increase the market share of railway passenger transport
To ensure modern and efficient transport services that encourage the use of railway passenger transport, CFR Călători builds new directions and strategies that have to rely on investments: in rolling stock, passenger information systems, modern and rapid ticketing systems. Also, the launch of different commercial solutions at European standards will help increase the number of passengers travelling by trains. Since the main challenge in Europe is to ensure the development of a sustainable economy, stimulating transportation is one of the key measures to help economy grow. Railway transport has the biggest advantage: it is environmentally friendly and safe, meets mobility needs and encourages economic growth.
We have discussed the challenges which arise in the implementation of projects aimed at increasing the market share of railway passenger transport, the need of rolling stock investments and the launch of new marketing solutions with the new General Manager of CFR Călători, Mr. Ştefan Roşeanu.
Railway Insider: As new General Manager of CFR Călători, what are the projects proposed for the near future to help increase the attractiveness of railway passenger transport?
Ştefan Roşeanu: The entire program I have in plan is focused on cost-efficiency as related to the number of train/km and the number of carried passengers. CFR Călători’s objective is not necessarily to reduce the number of train/km or the number of trains we operate, but to increase the offer according to budget limits, so that the attractiveness of this transport mode would be higher among passenger and non-passenger citizens.
Referring to the plans aimed at promoting and increasing the railway transport segment, we want to optimise the number of passengers by improving the communication level of the company’s offers and of passengers’ advantages, we want to improve traffic on the routes with traffic growth potential. In order to do this, we have to introduce pilot programs for using less energy-consuming vehicles, which means replacing the locomotives and wagons with diesel or electric multiple-units depending on the route so that energy consumption per train/km and per train/passenger would be low. Since Europe talks more and more about the necessity of an intelligent transport system that would meet the passengers’ demands and needs on ticketing, development of journey plans and improved information methods, CFR Călători wants to implement new IT and Telecom technologies. I want to bring something new and modern to CFR Călători during my stay here and to introduce different marketing and exploitation solutions similar to those in Central and Western Europe. This actual means the implementation of a modern system for the acquisition and control of tickets to also permit a better monitoring of the number of passengers, the implementation of modern signalling systems, including on locomotives, so as to increase the traffic speed to keep up with railway infrastructure modernisation works. It is necessary to rethink the rolling stock fleet so that all vehicles would be used wisely at the lowest consumption/passenger possible, since this is how the report should be made after all. This way, I think that we could have a return of investments that would permit reintroducing trains and supplementing the transport offer that we currently provide. Last but not least, we plan to extend the fleet of motorized vehicles, such as diesel and electric units and to upgrade long-distance trains and coaches for special purposes, such as sleeping cars or restaurant cars.
Railway Insider: As regards the rolling stock fleet, what is the actual condition of railway vehicles? Also, what are CFR Călători’s future projects for the modernisation/acquisition of coaches to provide quality services?
Ştefan Roşeanu: The fleet of vehicles counts for around 816 locomotives (LE, LDE, LDH) which provide for the daily traffic of trains. The life expectancy of the rolling stock is 35 years and can be extended by performing RK repairs (major repairs).
The age of the fleet of locomotives, multiple-units and EMUs per age groups is the following:
|Fleet age||No. vehicles|
|1 ÷ 10 years||125|
|11÷ 20 years||10|
|21÷ 30 years||193|
|31÷ 40 years||556|
|Over 41 years||258|
Currently, CFR Călători’s rolling stock fleet includes the first three locomotives newly-built in 20 years. The technical level of these three locomotives is similar to those used by European railway managers and meet the conditions imposed by European regulations. The three electric locomotives are equipped with traction motors, maximum traffic speed of 200 km/h, modern brake installation, static converters, programmable automaton, diagnosis and service installations, safety and vigilance equipments and so on. The locomotives are designed and manufactured to ensure interoperable traffic in Romania and Hungary and were bought following an open tender procedure for improving the quality of the locomotive fleet.
As regards the car fleet, our company currently owns around 2,288 railway cars. Usually, these cars should be functional from 12 to 18 years and if major repairs are undergone, their life expectancy could be prolonged up to 40 years. Currently, around 54% of the cars are upgraded or new (and other 14% have exceeded their life-expectancy).
As I have already said before, we plan to expand the rolling stock fleet to meet mobility and comfort needs.
Railway Insider: European countries prefer railway transport to other transport modes in meeting the citizens’ mobility needs. What is CFR Călători’s policy for the promotion and support of railway transport in social context?
Ştefan Roşeanu: The European transport strategy with long-term perspective (2050), “Transport White Paper” published in 2011, stipulates that most medium-distance transport journeys should be made by rail, as railway transport is the most environmentally friendly and safe transport mode. This objective could be achieved with strong financial support of railway transport in all EU member states. Railway investments should be prioritized to ensure the quality of the services which could transform railway transport into the customers’ mode of choice in the context of a very competitive market.
There is European political support for achieving this objective and this support is represented by the community legislative framework and financial support measures (European cohesion, regional, structural and TEN-T funds).
In these circumstances, CFR Călători, which carries on its entire activity as public service obligation, tries to recover from the difficult financial situation by adopting measures referring to organisation, contracts, commercial and financial activities etc. Therefore, priority aspects focus on increasing incomes, making the activity more efficient, reducing losses caused by inefficient performance and rolling stock investments.
All these major objectives are aimed to increase the quality of the railway transport services provided by CFR Călători in conditions of maximum safety. In order to do this, one of the major concerns is ensuring financing resources for investing in rolling stock that would meet the European specific standards (electric, less-polluting traction, interoperability and customers’ rights standards).
Since CFR Călători is not carrying on its activity based on purely commercial grounds (as I have already said before), but within a multi-annual contracts signed with the state representative (the ministry), rolling stock financing has to be an important chapter in this public service obligation that the state uses to implement its own railway stimulating policy.
Railway Insider: Mobility is a vital element in a country due to the fact that it doesn’t only mean transport from one place to another, but also access to new opportunities (work, study, spending free time, access to public services etc.) What are the challenges and how can they be approached to change our behaviour and mode of thinking in order to achieve sustainable mobility?
Ştefan Roşeanu: In the current economic context, the main challenge is ensuring the sustainable development which also means ensuring resources in conditions of low pollution and for creating new jobs for developing the economy and stimulating the transport sector is exactly the main means for increasing economic growth.
At the moment, all transport modes are very dependent of oil resources (96% of total carried passengers and freight). To achieve sustainable mobility, this situation has to change gradually and railway transport can be far less polluting than road transport. Therefore, CFR Călători’s priorities includes electric traction extension for meeting many of these requirements, both eco-friendly and financially for reducing exploitation costs, such as the partial replacement of diesel locomotives with multiple-units which have the advantage of low consumption and which can better adapt to regional services.
Railway Insider: To have a cost-accessible transport system, the authorities could guarantee and ensure subsidies. Is the authorities’ support absolutely necessary or the is the company capable to efficiently cover its costs? What would be the means to achieve this?
Ştefan Roşeanu: The obligations stipulated in the public transport contract for railway services signed by CFR Călători and the Ministry of Transport and which guides our entire activity are partially covered by the compensation paid by the state from the national budget for covering the difference between cost and tariff, as well as all legal facilities granted to socially disadvantaged categories of passengers. This leads to increasing the accessibility of passengers to these services and contributes to increasing mobility. We believe that meeting the state’s policy of making railway transport more accessible on a large scale (in conditions of maximum quality and safety) for all social categories, the state’s financial support is absolutely necessary. At the same time, we can act towards implementing a more flexible commercial policy, closer to the market requirements which could result in attracting passengers to railway transport and would implicitly determine income growth from the sale of tickets.
A great challenge for CFR Călători is the liberalisation of international railway market, but also that of the domestic market, which places us in the context of an intermodal competition market.
CFR Călători has to constantly improve its transport offer, to raise the quality of its services and improve safety, all these in order to be capable of competitiveness on both the domestic and international markets.
The state financing of railway transport is important, as well as the implementation of a strategy for balancing transport modes, increasing mobility and building a sustainable transport mainly based on eco-friendly and safe railway transport.