Karel Vinck and Francois Lacôte receive European Railway Award 2012

Karel Vinck and Francois Lacôte receive European Railway Award 2012

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

CER and UNIFE presented the European Railway Award 2012 today to European Coordinator for ERTMS Karel Vinck in the political category and to Alstom’s Senior Vice President and Technical Advisor Francois Lacôte in the technical category. Since 2007, the European rail sector has honoured outstanding political and technical achievements in the rail sector. The European Railway Award 2012 attracted more than 500 guests from all over Europe, including high-level politicians and transport stakeholders.  

Keynote speaker of the gala evening once more was Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, who outlined key points of the upcoming fourth railway package. In his speech he addressed key future challenges for the rail sector, and emphasised the important role rail transport shall play in building the Single European Transport Area: “The idea is to unleash rail's true potential, to raise the quality of service so that it becomes a real and attractive alternative.”
 
European ERTMS Coordinator Karel Vinck can look back at a long-standing career in civil engineering combined with an academic career that took him from Belgium to the USA and Italy. In 2005 he became European ERTMS Coordinator under the administration of Commissioner Jacques Barrot, and since then worked tirelessly on making the European rail network interoperable by taking the lead on ERTMS deployment on the European TEN-T Corridors. 
 
In his laudatory address to Karel Vinck, Brian Simpson, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee, said: “I think the award to Karel Vinck comes in the tradition of giving the political prize to people who fight for a vision and who work hard to turn such visions into reality. Karel Vinck has toiled tirelessly to deliver ERTMS to our rail sector. His task has required diplomacy, determination and last but not least patience. He has been crucial in laying the foundations for ERTMS which are essential in delivering an interoperable, safe and efficient European-wide signalling system, a vital element in developing an integrated European Railway.”
 
When accepting the award, Karel Vinck made strong statement for seamless rail transport in Europe. ”We need more than ever all stakeholders to share the same European vision and commitment to develop European rail in the frame of an optimal multi-modal transport system. We can do more, we can do better. Time for action is now.”
 
CER Chairman and CEO of FS Mauro Moretti explained “that many countries have not yet invested on ERTMS. For this reason the action of Karel Vinck, who succeeded in pushing for a standard ERTMS, proposed EU funding for infrastructure and rolling stock and convinced many countries to install it, is still needed.”
 
UNIFE Chairman Henri Poupart-Lafarge added on the subject of European-wide authorisation with an extended role of the European Railway Agency (ERA): “The key to a truly fair competition between the different modes of transport is the removal of administrative and technical barriers, and developing member state-neutral authorisation procedures at European level. We are grateful to know the European Commission behind us on this issue.”
 
It was then the Executive Director of the same ERA, Mr Marcel Verslype, who introduced the laureate of the Technical Award 2012 Francois Lacôte. Among the key dates of the latter’s career with SNCF and ALSTOM he picked out one in particular: “1990, Mr Lacôte became Director of Rolling Stock at SNCF and had the courage to campaign for the new and ‘revolutionary’ concept of the Duplex (double-deck) TGV that no one wanted.”
 
Francois Lacȏte assisted in developing the first TGVs and later became the chief engineer for the world-record holding Duplex TGV, and today oversees the latest generation high-speed train at ALSTOM, the AGV. In his acceptance speech, he shared his vision for renewed collaboration across the sector to build up the railways of the future as a complete system: “Europe must remain the world leader in rail innovation. In order to achieve this, we need a collaborative effort between rail industry, operators, and European regulators. Rail today is recognised as THE transportation system of the 21st century in Europe – this means we need to give it the appropriate resources, means, and lean regulations in order to unfold its vast potential.”
 
Pictures of the European Railway Award 2012 and the CER and UNIFE Annual Reception are available at www.annualreception.eu