130 years ago to the day, on 17 August 1885, Europe’s 50 main tramway operators came together in Brussels to create the ‘Union Internationale Permanente de Tramways’. The precursor to what we now know as UITP was thus born with 63 members operating tramways in nine countries.
With Gustave Michelet (Tramways Bruxellois) and Fernand Nonnenberg, the first President and Secretary General respectively, at the helm, the first objectives of the Association were decided upon as well as the official languages – French and German – with Brussels chosen as the Association’s location.
Over the years, UITP has adapted its structure and broadened its focus to become more inclusive of an evolving public transport sector, with the Association rebranding itself in 1902 as the ‘Union Intenationale de Tramways et de Chemins de fer d’intérêt local’ to reflect the inclusion of suburban and regional railways and again in 1922 to encompass the rapid emergence of the bus.
Another name change followed on the eve of the Second World War, this time to the ‘International Association of Public Transport’. The years following WW2 saw UITP become a truly international association and its strong technical focus slowly evolved to also include political issues, with the Association representing the interests of the public transport sector both on the international and local stages.
Regional and liaison offices were also set up around the world to ensure a global presence for UITP and also allow it to be closer to its members’ daily needs and concerns.
UITP has always been at the very cutting edge of guiding its members through for the burning issues of the day, from which breed of horse was best for the job at the Association’s second World Congress in Milan in 1889 to dealing with the opportunities and challenges of the likes of smart cities, open data and climate change in the present day.
Much like the sector it represents, UITP continues to evolve and innovate, today representing some 1,400 member companies from all areas of sustainable mobility from 96 countries across all continents. Proud of its long history, UITP also has its eyes firmly set on the future: a future in which public transport continues to play an ever greater role in our cities. A future where, thanks to public transport, our urban environments will be greener, more liveable and more prosperous.
As we look forward to the next 130 years, we hope you’ll be able to join us for the ride.