MOHAMED MEZGHANE UITP Secretary General SPECIAL INTERVIEW
As the only worldwide network to bring together all public transport stakeholders and all sustainable transport modes, UITP and their global membership knows what direction the sector is going in.
The UITP Global Public Transport Summit (Stockholm 9-12 June 2019) is the largest of its kind in public transport and urban mobility and the event where the sector will gather to discuss the current state of play, and what that future will look like.
Leading the debate will be UITP’s Secretary General Mohamed Mezghani. Mohamed became UITP Secretary General in January 2018, and although this is his first Summit as the association’s head figure, he details his past involvements in various roles within UITP and a public transport and mobility career spanning thirty years.
Read all about the next UITP Global Public Transport Summit in our conversation with Mohamed…
The next UITP Global Public Transport Summit will take place in Stockholm (9-12 June 2019). What can you tell us about this edition?
The next UITP Summit will be the biggest edition yet. The Summit was previously held in Stockholm in 1991, where it was known as the UITP World Congress. The growth and recognition of the Summit is something truly incredible.
It has become the largest event of its kind in public transport and urban mobility. In Stockholm we will have 280 exhibitors across 40000m2 of space. 2500 participants and attendees will join us in Sweden with more than 10000 visitors expected per day.
These are brilliant numbers! What makes the UITP Global Public Transport Summit the biggest of its kind is that we cover all modes. We have mass transit and shared modes and new players all under one roof. It is also the global reach that makes the UITP Summit special.
Our worldwide attendance will reach up to 90 countries. We will also have a rich programme that covers many sectoral topics and will take place across plenary sessions, lunch sessions, poster sessions and exhibition sessions.
The 2019 programme will revolve around seven main topics: customer service excellence, planning and governance for improving quality of life in cities, mobility as a service and the new combined mobility paradigm, attracting new talents and skills, operational excellence, funding and finance and harvesting innovation.
These will be discussed through plenary sessions and panel discussions. Taking part in these discussions will be hundreds of high-level speakers from around the world, including CEOs, political figures and innovators. So far we have leading names from France, Indonesia, China, Australia, Canada, Kenya and Saudi Arabia, to name but a few. The UITP Summit offers something for everyone, at all times.
The theme for the 2019 Summit is “The Art of Public Transport”…what does the theme mean to you personally?
The theme for each Summit edition is carefully selected. The UITP Summit always has a theme which is relevant and special to the host city. “The Art of Public Transport” is not the 2019 theme by chance! It’s inspired by the Swedish metro holding the distinction of being ‘the longest art gallery in the world’.
However, the theme of the Summit is more than just the artistic aspect. We are also encompassing the craft and excellence in delivering public transport; the engineering aspect, the governance of public transport. We will also cover the latest innovations that illustrates this art. It’s also important to emphasize the key role of the people who deliver the state of the art public transport around the world.
Our industry colleagues, including the very talented UITP staff, are ‘mobility artists’ – working every day to showcase public transport. The theme will show and reflect their contribution to the sector.
The UITP team has been showcasing their abilities as artists by taking pictures around the world with our stencils
not only does this show the global reach of our staff and membership, but also that “The Art of Public Transport” can truly be found everywhere!
This is your first Summit as UITP’s Secretary General. How does this impact your view during the Summit preparation?
It may be my first Summit as UITP Secretary General but it is my no means by first Summit! It will actually be my 11th edition in many different roles. My first Summit was in 1999 in Toronto, which was held two months after I first arrived at UITP.
I was also Project Manager of the 2011 in Dubai, the 2013 edition in Geneva and the 2015 edition in Milan. I also supervised the 2017 edition in Montreal while UITP Deputy Secretary General. I was obviously very involved in the day-to-day managing of the Summit.
Now I oversee developments in conveying my views and expectations to the very talented UITP team! The planning is going very well and I’m very confident in its success. In fact, the team is organising this edition so well that they won’t even need me to have a successful event!
As the biggest event of its kind in public transport and urban mobility, how important has the UITP Summit become to the sector?
UITP has more than 1600 members across the globe and the UITP Summit has become so important to the sector that our members consider it a first Tier event. This is extremely flattering as they clearly view it as an unmissable event.
For exhibitors – it is the event as the UITP Summit is essential to their work. There’s the chance to premiere their innovations and to showcase to the industry. Crowds come from all over the world – transport leaders and CEOs - and visitors get to hear them speak and meet them.
We also have a growing number of political figures participate, which is very important as it shows that key decision-makers view the Summit as relevant part of their calendar.
The wide variety of topics on offer is also covered by the international press and media, with a very strong showing from the trade press. The first Summit was held in 1886, the year after UITP came in to being, and the numerous editions since then have built great credibility to become the best event in the eyes of the sector.
What makes Stockholm the best host for this edition? And what can you tell us about UITP’s relationship with 2019 local host SL?
Stockholm is a great city to host the next UITP Summit. It has so much on offer – from being considered the safest city in Europe, to being the second most connected city in the world.
Its urban mobility policy is a model in its kind with a balanced urban planning, a multimodal public transport network and car traffic restrictions (with the congestion pricing scheme for example).
It also perfectly showcases art in public transport. Our relationship with SL is very strong, we work closely on the Summit. Moreover, our members in the Nordic Countries are actively partnering with SL making the Summit a highlight not only for Sweden but also for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Denmark.
UITP only goes to cities with members and committed hosts. We don’t want to organise the Summit alone – and as a member-led global association, we don’t have to! In fact our relationship with the local member host is so strong that we’ve always co-hosted with a member since the first edition in 1886!
There will be hundreds of exhibitors, speakers and delegates, as well as thousands of visitors, in attendance over the three days of the Summit. What can they expect to see and experience?
They can expect the opportunity to share the latest public transport developments from over the world. The sector is changing and these changes will be discussed, alongside the challenges we face. There’s a great deal going on in public transport.
We have the growing development of new players, the growth of shared mobility, on-demand modes and more. Digitalisation is also changing the sector and needs to continue to be discussed. It’s important to all meet together to share the experiences of change with members.
All of this will be covered at the Summit – to share, and learn is very important. There’s the also the chance to meet and to listen to many high-level speakers. In fact we have more than 100 CEOs from transport bodies speaking in Stockholm.
What do you hope they take away from this edition?
The attendees can learn from the experience of who will be speaking and exhibiting. The networking opportunities are also very important, and there’s many on offer during the Summit.
UITP organises many, as do our sponsors and our exhibitors. I would say that the Summit is best the way to develop your business by the numerous chances on offer to network.
It’s also the chance to take distance from daily work – everyone in the sector is very busy all year and this is the chance to realise what is happening and how they can develop their business and come to see the public transport and urban mobility debate first hand.
“There’s a global movement to develop and promote public transport, with innovations happening everywhere in the world...Governments are realising that without good public transport systems, there can be no sustainable development and no economic prosperity.”
UITP announced last year that the 2021 UITP Summit will be heading to Melbourne, Australia (June 6-9, 2021). It will be the first time in almost 30 years that your pillar event will be held in the Southern Hemisphere. Is UITP already planning the 2021 edition?
The UITP Summit was last hosted in the Southern Hemisphere when it was held in Sydney, Australia almost 30 years ago. We actually begin organising the next Summit during the host selection process.
We discuss with the three candidates (three host candidates are always in the final running). Before we select the host city, we discuss details and have an idea on what the event will look like in the prospective cities: the specifics, the challenges, and the progress to be made.
We also leave flexibility to adapt the event to the needs of our members, and also in the market in the coming months and years. Therefore we start to organise immediately after the host selection – for Melbourne in 2021, this was in June 2018 when we announced the winning bid to become the next host city.
We already have a great deal of support from PTV, the local host, and also many local players. Several global players have already shown an interest at this stage. UITP ANZ is a partner association of UITP, so having UITP ANZ down under is a massive asset to us on the ground. The support is very important.
This is because undoing the traditional separation of roles in the operations area and the growing importance of technical solutions are giving rise to a continuous exchange between specialist departments and IT, resulting in new impetus for business.
For instance, IT can perform a targeted analysis of the data obtained, evaluate it on the basis of specialised criteria and use it with the customers in mind.
In this way, the integration of the system landscape and the creation of entirely digital workflows are driving forward the evolution of railways into a modern, competitive form of transport for the 21st century.
UITP reaches most parts of the world with its international membership and as Secretary General you travel across the globe to meet with them. What do you learn during these visits and what still surprises you when you see these different cities?
First of all, the travel is very enriching. I always learn a lot when I travel and I enjoy the opportunity to meet many different people. There’s a global movement to develop and promote public transport, with innovations happening everywhere in the world. It’s happening in developed countries and developing countries – innovations are everywhere.
The starting points are of course not the same. Different objectives and efforts apply but all countries can share the same challenges. Governments are realising that without good public transport systems, there can be no sustainable development and no economic prosperity.
All cities and countries have the same aims and objectives – they want growth. For growth to happen, there needs to be the right talents and skills. Everyone has to make the best of digitalisation, for example.
The more I travel, the more I also see the good image UITP has all over world – this grows our motivation to do more, to achieve more and to best serve the industry, alongside our members.
And finally, can you tell our readers in one sentence why they should come to the UITP Summit?
There’s so much to say about the UITP Global Public Transport Summit that you will have to kindly allow me a lengthy sentence!...
The UITP Summit is the unique opportunity to learn from peers and to see the latest technological developments first hand; to see high level speakers show commitment to public transport and sustainable mobility and to interact in a friendly environment by having fun in a very nice city like Stockholm and enjoy its white nights! I hope to see all of you join us there in June.