Interview: Masaki Ogata

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In June this year, JR East’s Masaki Ogata took over from Peter Hendy as President of UITP. Here’s an extract of an extended interview Mr. Ogata gave to PTI magazine (to be released in November).

You are the first Asian and second non-European President of UITP. What benefit do you think this kind of diversity brings to the organisation?

I think the policy, institutions and network of public transport in Europe are mature, whereas Asia and the other regions in the world are still in dynamic development stages. I want to make most of the advantages of each region in the world and balance these diversities.

We see higher level arguments in Europe on a proper revenue portfolio among farebox, public funds and other sources. In Asia and the other regions, there is a big gap between the cities with highly developed public transport like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore and the emerging cities where this has not been established yet. We have not yet found out the revenue portfolio of public transport in the emerging cities. In order to design the future plan for sound public transport in the emerging regions, the policy, institutions and network of public transport in Europe may be the good model.

What is important is for UITP to aim for well-balanced development of public transport in all regions. We respect regional characteristics, acknowledge similarities and differences among these regions and help them to stimulate each other.

There are differences between the rail industry in Europe, Asia and Japan. We have differences from one nation to other nations. However, it is neither wise nor practical to identify which is better or worse. I believe the most appropriate scheme of railways should be chosen depending on the environment surrounding railways such as geographical conditions, development phase, volume of transport demand and many other factors. For further development of railways in the world, it is important to work harder to improve by learning from others based on proper acknowledgment and evaluation of both the similarities and the different points of railways in each region or nation.

UITP is the most important public transport association in the world. What, in your opinion, is the association excelling at, and what, if anything, do you feel could be improved?

I am confident that UITP is the most important public transport association in the world. There is no other association like UITP that includes operators, authorities, suppliers and others, where its members are creating policy proposals, exchanging opinions and information and expanding personal networking.

I would like to prioritise the achievement of innovation in public transport and enhance UITP’s advantages further. I do believe that the three important concept of public transport innovation can lead to social innovation:

First, public transport is social infrastructure that can sustainably innovate by itself, while knowing the genuine needs of the customers, communities and societies through two-way communication. Second, this sustainable innovation of public transport can raise the quality of life and the mobility of people.

Third, social innovation can be accomplished through public transport innovation. I think that UITP can further grow by leading the innovation in public transport.

Sir Peter Hendy left a legacy of focus on the business community. What do you think of this approach and how do you imagine your own tenure at UITP will be defined?

I fully support the approach of Sir Peter Hendy because the business community is an important engine to powerfully lead public transport.

Along with this, I consider that public transport has two essential long-term values; one is the value of public transport itself, and the other is the value provided by public transport. I do believe that we can further enhance these two values by innovation and advocate globally these two values of public transport, as I have suggested, to the stakeholders, who include nation, society, business community, customers and others.

When we advocate the value of public transport, it is important to change negative views of public transport to positive. For instance, a fare is “value for customer”; a subsidy is considered as” value for society”. By making the stakeholders understand this idea, the value of public transport can be deeply and widely recognized and, I believe, PTx2 can be realised.

How can the so-called developing world avoid making the same mistakes the developed world has made – with regard to massive motorization and growth based on private car use?

Indeed, development based solely upon massive motorization and growth based on private car use cannot solve the critical issues surrounding us today. Like the PTx2 strategy, expanding the public transport network in the region can lead to proper development. We will have to continuously advocate the values of public transport itself and the value public transport can deliver to the stakeholders, especially to the policy decision maker.

Public transport planning and development itself has been essentially implemented originally as medium to longer term projects, for instance, it took 143 years for the Japanese transportation network to be as it is today. I would like to contribute to the developing world by showing our experience with the public transport based lifestyle model of Japan which our predecessors have left to us.

The Trends Report is a very important publication for UITP. What do you think about the project?

The Trends Report indeed can be a valuable tool of advocacy towards stakeholders of public transport. In order to adapt to the rapidly changing environment, we will need to enhance further innovations in public transport management and public transport technology.

Second, for driving innovation, it is very crucial to enhance smooth coordination and collaboration among all the members of public transport, which I like to phrase as “open innovation of PT in globalization”.

Third but not least, I would also like to propose that we have to advocate the value of public transport and the value and benefits public transport can provide to the society, community and customers.

In order to actualize these proposals, the Trend Report can be a good messenger.

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