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UITP celebrates 135 years of advancing public transport

  • Global
  • Communication
  • Future of Mobility
  • Urban mobility

Since 1885 our association has grown to become the reference for the public transport sector.

The year is 1885: Louis Pasteur successfully tests his vaccine against rabies; the United States receives the Statue of Liberty as a gift from France; J. K. Starley, the English inventor and industrialist, starts selling the Rover Bicycle, which we can consider today as the first modern bicycle.

In this same year, UITP was born.

On 1 August 1885, Gustave Michelet of Brussels Tramways and Joseph Fisher-Dick of Berliner Tramways sent an invitation to their European colleagues suggesting that they meet in Brussels, as the Belgian capital occupied a commanding position in the tramway industry. The letter started as follows:

Tramway and light railway companies are part of the same industry but have very few relations with one another. Many administrative and technical questions have been dealt with in very different ways by different companies, without the expected results. The need for engineers and specialists to learn from the experience of colleagues is of the highest interest to all tramways administrations.

On this day, 135 years ago (17 August 1885), UITP was founded as a knowledge-exchange platform comprising members of tramway companies in parts of Europe.

Today, UITP has evolved from the “Union Internationale Permanente de Tramways – Internationaler Permanenter Strassenbahn-Verein” which began with63 members from nine countries, to the International Association of Public Transport, which now comprisesmore than 1,800 members from 100 countries.

Some of the first objectives of our association were to address the implications of theindustrial revolutionon transport needs for workers, and to discuss new technologies and innovations that could help meet increasing transport demands—horse tractionwas becoming increasingly insufficient.

Today, UITP remains a knowledge hub, and theonly worldwide networkto bring togetherall public transport stakeholders and all sustainable transport modes. In these past few years, we have tackled challenges such as growingurbanisation, new trends indigitalisation, theclimate crisis, and most recently, adapting to transport needs throughout apandemic.

Our mission as an association has moved far beyond knowledge exchange among peers in the transport sector. We nowregularly advocateand work alongside international organisations and provide policy recommendations for decision makers. Wepromote and defend public transportand the essential role it plays inany vision for asustainable and flourishing city.

Our events have escalated from a local congress with around100 participants, to theGlobal Public Transport Summit, the latest edition counted2,700 participants and 15,000 exhibition visitors.

“What’s our secret? The noble purpose we pursue, our global and diverse membership and our skilled and international staff. We work for and with our members to help them learn, innovate, influence policy decisions, develop their business, share and be recognised for their achievements. We will continue to grow with them to enhance quality of life and economic well-being by supporting sustainable mobility”, said Mohamed Mezghani, UITP Secretary General.

With 135 years of experience, UITP has accumulated the expertise to address a variety ofglobal challenges. We’ve been there through both world wars, we adapted to new technologies since the invention of the first modern car, and we’ve survived many other pandemics and crises.

While there is no guarantee of what the future holds, we know one thing for certain: UITP and its members will continue to find sustainable mobility solutions in any context, andadvance public transport for all.

Thank you to all of our dedicated members for making 135 years of achievements possible!

And here, a word from our current UITP President, Pere Calvet, and Secretary General, Mohamed Mezghani:

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