International Rail Conference and SITCE speakers share their thoughts: Andrew Bata, UITP North America

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As we conclude the UITP International Rail Conference and SITCE (Singapore, 9-11 July 2018) our programme, panel sessions and international speakers and participants made for an outstanding edition!

Over the past few weeks we have sat down with several of our Congress speakers and panellists to get their thoughts on the event, public transport in the region and the industry going forward. Now that we’ve completed our time in Singapore, we’re wrapping up our exclusive Q&As.

Up next to share his views on this year’s International Rail Conference and SITCE is Andrew Bata, Head of UITP’s North America Regional Office, United States of America.

UITP is a truly international association with over 1,500 members and 18,000 contact members in 96 countries. Our worldwide reach covers 16 regional offices, with you as Head of our North America base. Can you tell our readers more about UITP’s presence in your part of the world?

Of course, UITPs presence has grown a great deal in North America with many brilliant operators, authorities and industry becoming members of UITP. I always make it known to our members, and importantly to our potential members, that by joining UITP you are gaining access to a vast network of expertise around the world. There is advanced thinking in so many areas within our sector and that by joining UITP, we can increase the recognition of all of our international connections. The local practice in the US and Canada is good – during the International Rail Conference and SITCE we had members from the US and Canada attending – and every person that came to join us in Singapore benefited from being there, of that I’m sure. We can see how the Asia-Pacific region is exploding and building these important connections is vital. Events such as SITCE show how global our international reach is. I know that the North America region will continue to expand and further UITP’s reach across the globe.

You chaired the Parallel Session: “Obsolescence management and rolling stock life extension” What do you think those in attendance took away from this session?

Rollin stock is a worldwide issue. The advancement of technology is so important and rolling stock may be shiny and new but things can always quickly become outdated so we must always progress. Digital connections, WiFi, charging and more, everything must always develop. Something very important we must do is how to best compete with the creature comforts of the car, but still be mass transit. What people sometimes misconstrue is that the car is door-to-door – it is not the ultimate convenience. Public transport is the best way to move around. I hope those who came to the session learnt a lot and left thinking how we can all address industry developments together.

What people sometimes misconstrue is that the car is door-to-door – it is not the ultimate convenience. Public transport is the best way to move around.

You’ve had a long and varied career in the public transport sector spanning 30 years, including positions at the New York City Transit Authority. How has the industry changed in this time?

The industry has developed a great deal in these years. The biggest change I can think of is most likely the real-time information now available to travellers. Customers have all the information they need at their fingertips. It’s much easier to navigate the system now. So many digital tools are available to guide you through your journey, whether that be the connectivity of modes, looking at timetables on your smartphone and more, public transport is available in every sense. These developments are brilliant – and I know that our sector will continue to advance!

The 2018 edition of the Metropolitan Railways Assembly will be held in Los Angeles this year, in conjunction with the International Rail Forum for North America, under the title 'The Innovative Metro: A Foundation for New Mobility'. Can you tell our readers more about this exciting event?

I’m looking forward to the year ahead for the North America region. Our events this year will bring the truly international knowledge of UITP to those wo attend and our North American members will have the opportunity to showcase themselves to a global audience – but it’s not just about our members, it’s also about potential members – and I hope by hosting these events that those with a vested interest in public transport and access to a vast, global network that being within UITP brings you, will see the potential of joining our growing association.

And finally, can you share with us a fun and interesting story involving a journey you’ve made on rail, anywhere in the world?

Many spring to mind from a long career in our sector, but one that jumps out is back when I was Chief of Strategic Improvements and Best Practices for MTA (The New York City Transit Authority) and we had some signs painted on a platform saying ‘don’t stand here’, or something along those lines, to instruct passengers not to stand right beside the door. The signs were painted in yellow, and for anyone who knows about standard safety signs, yellow is the colour for this. I received a message at the office later from a politician at the time needing to speak with me ‘ASAP’. We connected a short time later and I’m told that they “don’t really like the colour yellow” and can they be changed. I politely explained that yellow is the standard safety colour for situations like this and they responded, “okay, I didn’t realise” and that was it! The message behind this story is if you think you know something don’t be scared to speak up – because it could result in two scenarios: you can end up instilling wisdom in someone and also saving you and others a great deal of work!

A huge thank you Andrew for his time, and to all of our International Rail Conference and SITCE speakers, panellists and guests for contributing their time to our exclusive Speaker Series!

It’s a pleasure to hear their thoughts on our events, public transport and the future of the sector. Stay tuned for more when UITP hosts our next event!

Catch up on the previous Q&A here!

Check us out on Twitter at @UITPnews and @UITPpress to get the full report from Singapore!  

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