International Rail Conference and SITCE speakers share their thoughts: Suvi Schwab of INIT

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As we approach the UITP International Rail Conference and SITCE (Singapore, 9-11 July 2018) our programme, panel sessions and list of speakers and participants is rapidly taking shape.

Over the next few weeks we will be sitting 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.

Up next is Suvi Schwab, Regional Manager of INIT Asia-Pacific, Singapore.  

This year’s UITP International Rail Conference is combined with SITCE for the first time in Asia and will be based around the theme 'People at the Heart of Digital Railways', putting the customer at the centre of a modern railway system. How important do you think this theme is for public transport right now?

All businesses will eventually face disruption, and the public transport sector is no exception. Digitalisation has redefined whole industries and there is no doubt that the same will happen and is happening already to public transport. The public transport sector needs to see digitalisation as an opportunity to improve the service for passengers, not as an obstacle that the sector is forced to overcome. This automatically leads to having people at the heart of digital railways/public transport. The good news is that never before technology has opened up so many possibilities to improve the service for passengers as nowadays; the bad news is that this technology also benefits the private car sector (and other railway and public transport competitors), delivering the tools to provide alternatives for traditional public transport. Being aware that in this era of disruption, public transport operators need an innovative technology partner on their side, we make every effort to help them face those challenges successfully.

INIT is the worldwide leading supplier of ticketing solutions and integrated telematics for public transport. As Regional Manager, you’re responsible for business development in the Asia-Pacific region. Can you tell our readers about what your role entails? 

My responsibility is to help operators and authorities design and transition to connected mobility solutions such as Account Based Ticketing, Intermodal Transport Management systems, Planning and Optimisation systems, including the integration of electro-mobility, on-demand and shared mobility services and help them get the maximum benefit of these innovative solutions. I like working in this space (especially now in the disruption era) because technology is constantly evolving as are the varying needs of our various customers.

You’re due to speak in the Parallel Session: “When data adds value to your service delivery” discussing data and digitalisation – two very topical subjects for public transport. What can those in attendance expect from your session?

The topic and the focus of the presentation will be on the Passenger Guidance System and how such a system can improve operations and increase passenger satisfaction. Additionally I want to address a couple of other issues such as railway capacity during rush hour as well as the quality of the data we use. Too often we see systems that are based on good ideas but if the input data is not of good quality (accurate, realistic, complete, timely), the outcome will not reach its full potential.

The public transport sector needs to see digitalisation as an opportunity to improve the service for passengers, not as an obstacle that the sector is forced to overcome.

UITP recently launched the #PT4ME campaign with the World Bank to promote and advance access and roles for women in public transport. What do you think the public transport sector can do to break down barriers for women working in our industry?

According to studies, one of the biggest barriers women face (in any industry) is that they feel they often need to choose between work and family. Providing options such as flexible working conditions for women so that they would not feel the need to make a choice between the two would certainly help. However, a lot of it has to do with the organisational culture, which often starts from top-level commitment. Is the management consciously employing women? Is the management’s attitude towards women the same as towards men? Is there a pay gap between the two genders?  The managers of public transport sector organisations should address these questions not only because it is ethical, but research shows that there is a business imperative to do so as well.

And finally, there are many interesting developments and ideas taking place in public transport across the world, from autonomous vehicles to flying taxis. What is the state of play for the sector in the Asia-Pacific region right now? 

I see a more cautious interest in all these new developments in, for example, Europe as in Asia (-Pacific), and I feel that in Asia organisations see less barriers for developing such ideas. Also the legal framework (or better said, the lack of thereof) plays a role. Therefore it might seem that in Asia every organisation is doing something in these fields. There are many trials going on all over the world regarding autonomous vehicles for example, nevertheless, this technology is not yet mature enough for a full worldwide implementation. They are, however, topics that are covered in all industry events and they will (eventually) be the future.

Thank you, Suvi, for your time and see you in SIngapore!

Don't forget to register for the International Rail Conference and SITCE (9-11 July, SIngapore) here!

Stay tuned to our newsroom over the coming weeks for more in our Q&A Series from some of our event speakers! Catch up on the previous Q&A here!

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