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InnoTrans Convention – between ReStart and mobility revolution

September 2020

InnoTrans Digital Convention: Perspectives for the future of mobility

Interview with Dr. Heike van Hoorn (Deutsches Verkehrsforum) und Dr. Ben Möbius (Verband der Bahnindustrie in Deutschland)

The premiere of the digital InnoTrans Convention will start on 23 September. The two dialogue forums and the International Bus Forum will be available live in stream format or as video on demand on the InnoTrans website. In an interview, the two organisers, Dr. Heike van Hoorn and Dr. Ben Möbius, talk about the  opportunities and prospects of mobility.

What lessons can politics and society learn from the Corona crisis for the future of mobility?

Dr. van Hoorn: There is one thing the mobility industry has proven in this unprecedented crisis: You can rely on it! The companies of the transport and logistics sector have ensured the supply of goods to the population, even under the most difficult conditions such as border closures and slumps in demand. In future, it will be important that the cooperation between the Federal States and the Federal Government works better. There have been differences in the way they have handled the exception to the ban on driving on Sundays and public holidays. Also the cooperation within the EU must be improved. Sudden border closures must not be allowed to occur in the same way. I see a positive future for the mobility sector, provided that we manage to set the appropriate framework conditions. In other words this means that we need high levels of investment in infrastructure and digitisation, new technology, propulsion systems and fuels, and a reduction in bureaucracy.

Why did you choose the topic “Rail Revolution 4.0: Picking up speed after the crisis”?

Dr. Möbius: A new mobility, especially by rail, is one of the great, fascinating future tasks of our time. The protection of the climate requires a clean mobility. Now the worldwide economy and society are facing the economic relaunch, another enormous task. The railway industry in Germany provides innovative solutions for both challenges. With Rail 4.0, we are interlinking previous antagonists, climate protection and growth – that is the essence of the mobility revolution.  For most people, equating sustain- ability with sacrifice in their everyday  lives is not exactly the best solution. Rail 4.0 does not mean a sacrifice, but rather a promise. Because, for the first time, more mobility will work with almost zero emissions – and with added value in industry in Germany and  Europe. And this will become tangible in everyday life: An intelligent infrastructure, networked trains and alternative propulsion systems will make it possible to substantially improve the quality of travel with more timely circulations and greater personal freedom to make travelling more enjoyable with lower emissions. This is good for the economy, good for the climate and of course good for people. Now, with political backing, we can set the mobility revolution 4.0 in motion. This is exactly what our forum will be about.

What is your personal programme highlight at your dialogue for

Dr. Möbius: Well, my highlight is actually the basic philosophy of the forum. It’s not about show effects, but about the constructive interaction between politics and mobility experts at both national and European level. In this way, our forum aims at bringing vision and reality a step closer to one another – or at least showing how it could be done. Politicians are increasingly turning to railways for a sustainable economic re-covery and effective climate protection strategies – and rightly so. What are the political and railway industry’s visions of the future for the transport sector? Unfortunately, transportation is still a climate offender with an emission balance that has been rising since 1990.

But we will not make any progress with grumpy speeches. Instead, we shall move forward with innovations in the railway industry in Germany. Because they contribute to convincing and inspiring offers for people. Our experts will present solutions for challenges and provide an exciting insight into tomorrow’s mobility. A preview of the rail of the future, so to speak.

How do you perceive the current situation and the perspectives of the mobility industry at a global level?

Dr. van Hoorn:  The situation has improved in Germany and the EU since the outbreak of the pandemic. Nevertheless, the transport sector in particular is suffering from its consequences. Many companies are export-oriented and depend on global demand, such as manufacturers in the automotive or rail sectors or air transport. The global situation is not good yet. The USA in particular are a major problem. In the long term there will be a recovery. Nevertheless, the crisis may cause traffic flows to change permanently. In future we may perhaps not make as many business trips as before the crisis.

Dr. Möbius: There is no doubt that the current situation is altogether serious. The crisis has put a severe damper on the mobility sector. And our industry has been partly affected as well. We are facing difficult times, especially in global exports that are so important for us, now that public investments are being postponed. By contrast, the market in Central Europe is very stable. I am convinced that this will remain a major trend: more and more people want to travel in a particularly climate-friendly way. We must now act cautiously, regain the confidence of passengers and convince them of the benefits of rail with an attractive product strategy. The political will to achieve this goal is crucial. We can see that. The railway industry in Germany is an excellent technology partner and is ready for implementation.

What are you particularly looking forward to at InnoTrans 2021?

Dr. van Hoorn: I am looking forward to hopefully again getting in touch with the visitors and exhibitors at the fair. There is no substitute for such contacts. As the DVF, we will also be represented there with two forums and discuss exciting topics.

Dr. Möbius: I personally look forward to the overwhelming range of innovations that our industry has to offer on a global scale - despite the crisis - as well as to the future mobility in all its diversity. And I also look forward to the personal exchange with our colleagues and partners from all over the world. This is what makes InnoTrans, the leading trade fair for our industry, so incomparable, even, or especially, in times like these.