In the month of October, the FTE office supported its members in two national meetings related to the TTR Programme (Timetable and Capacity Redesign), one hosted in Poland and another one in Romania. While these two countries share some common ground, such as receiving cohesion funding, facing a high volume of ad hoc requests, and sharing borders with non-EU nations, these meetings shed light on differences concerning the status of preparation for the future European railway landscape.
Poland: A critical assessment
The situation in Poland might be seen as critical. While Polish Railway Undertakings (RU) have been actively working on the development of the TTR processes and IT standards for several years, the critical project at the Infrastructure Manager (IM) level has yet to take off. Remarkably, PKP PLK, the national railway infrastructure manager, stands as the final major Infrastructure Manager in the EU without a designated TTR implementation manager and a dedicated team for national TTR implementation.
FTE had the privilege of being invited as a guest by its members to the Rada Przewoźników meeting, the Polish Committee of RUs, organized by PKP PLK. At this gathering, FTE presented the potential benefits of TTR implementation, provided it is executed in a harmonized and market-oriented manner. Moreover, FTE shared an analysis of the proposed Regulation 443 on the Use of Railway Capacity, which aims to integrate certain TTR elements into the European legislation.
FTE highlighted that it would very much appreciate if PKP PLK actively participated in IM-RU Working Groups and incorporated TTR into the PKP PLK project portfolio, appointing a dedicated project manager for the purpose. Such an approach could not only lead to the sharing of best practices from Poland, such as transparent graphic timetables and ad hoc processing but could also inspire other countries and eventually become part of European standards. Additionally, it was stressed that participation in TTR, particularly through pilot projects on dedicated lines, can prove mutually beneficial for both IM and local RUs. Such initiatives can effectively prepare them for the future European capacity management process, mitigating the potential shock of a sudden transition, which is bound to become obligatory sooner or later.
The discussion that followed, further examined the benchmarking with other countries in the region, but also the activity of the Ministry of Infrastructure, which is within the European Council negotiating the position towards the Regulation proposal of the European Commission.
The ensuing discussion delved deeper into benchmarking with other countries in the region and examined the activities of the Ministry of Infrastructure, which, within the European Council, is engaged in negotiations regarding the European Commission's Regulation proposal. The exchange also showed a notable lack of awareness about TTR, especially among some regional passenger RUs and nationally operating freight RUs, with some encountering the project for the first time. While ample information is available in English on various websites, there is also limited information in Polish, such as a TTR video and a comprehensive TTR article featured in Miesięcznik Rynek Kolejowy (issue 10/2022), along with selected news releases.
Several FTE members are currently operating trains within the network of PKP PLK, including PKP Intercity, PKP Cargo, and DB Cargo Polska. Furthermore, additional FTE members are represented through their subsidiaries, including LTE, Metrans, ČD Cargo, and Rail Cargo Group.
Romania: A Different Path Forward
The TTR landscape in Romania stands in contrast to Poland's. CFR Infrastructure has been an integral part of the TTR community for several years, with Horatiu Ionescu, Deputy Traffic Director, serving as national TTR implementation manager. Ionescu leads a motivated team dedicated to the successful implementation of TTR initiatives in the country, and a team that also tries to actively involve RUs and their opinions..
Due to the high amount of manual work it was decided to designate a pilot line for testing TTR elements. While the focus for timetable 2025 was on the Bucharest-Palas line, CFR Infra has shifted its attention to the Curtici-Simeria line for 2026, closer to the centre of Europe and other IMs piloting TTR.
In a TTR meeting held on October 12, 2023, CFR Infra presented its proposed Capacity Strategy for timetable 2027 and Capacity Model for timetable 2026 to Railway Undertakings, actively seeking feedback. As a next step, the Infrastructure Manager announced the launch of a Capacity Needs Announcement (CNA) pilot program for timetable 2026, inviting RUs to submit CNAs relevant to the pilot line in the coming months. The proactive communication from the IM was warmly received by the RU representatives present at the meeting.
Naturally, the TTR implementation project in Romania still struggles with typical regional challenges, such as ensuring stability of Temporary Capacity Restrictions, and addressing a shortage of human resources. Nevertheless, the IM staff finds the TTR pilot project very useful, serving not only as solid preparation for the future but also as an opportunity to gain deeper insights into the evolving demands of digitalization.
In the upcoming years, CFR Infra intends to replace its IT timetabling software, ensuring it is compatible with new TSI standards and reflective of the TTR advance planning process. As such, the experience gained through the use of the RNE ECMT tool and the opportunity to test the advance planning process via the pilot project will be very useful to define the functional requirements for CFR Infra’s future IT systems.
Several FTE members are actively operating trains within the CFR Infrastructure network, including GFR, Unicom, CFR Calatori, and DB Cargo Romania, with Rail Cargo also represented through its subsidiary.