Wednesday 21 February 2024

Cross-sector knowledge exchange: UIC – EUROCONTROL workshop held on 13 February

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On 13 February, a dynamic and insightful workshop, coordinated by Parinaz Bazeghi, UIC Digital Project Manager, took place at UIC HQ, focusing on the exchange of technical knowledge across different sectors. Attended by representatives from Swiss railways (SBB CFF FFS), Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RFI), Luxemburg railways (CFL Cargo), RailNetEurope (RNE), Slovenian Railways (SZ) and UIC experts, the event provided a platform to dive into the communication rules and principles of the aviation sector.

Gabor Petnehazy and Stefan Oze, operational experts from EUROCONTROL, led the workshop, offering a comprehensive introduction and historical overview of EUROCONTROL. The organisation, established in 1960, currently comprises 41 member states and the European Union, with comprehensive agreements in place with Morocco and Israel. EUROCONTROL plays a central role in European aviation, functioning as the Air Traffic Network Manager for all Europe, an Innovation Hub and the Maastricht Air Navigation Service provider, and providing pan-European expert support.

They explained the important role of other associations in the aviation sector, such as ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a specialised agency of UN HQ based in Montreal), whose mission is to serve as the international civil aviation forum for states, and EASA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, headquartered in Cologne.

The discussion covered the challenges of managing multinational airspace, incorporating various air vehicles such as drones, aircraft, helicopters and balloons, each with different speeds and flight parameters.

The workshop emphasised the importance of standardised aviation phraseology (around 400 words), with a focus on the ICAO language proficiency requirements for aeronautical radiotelephony communications, adding that specific phraseologies are used depending on different parts of the airspace (en route) or the airport (ground). Although it does not correspond to any European language levels, this safety-related phraseology is a legal requirement for relevant air traffic personnel because it serves the very specific purpose for which it was developed. The profession of air traffic controller, one of the most challenging jobs, was also introduced.

In the second part of the day, the focus was on the digital tools and technology that support training and assessment in the aviation sector. Data link projects were presented, among others, as well as simulated data link services and simulated variables for safety incentives (misunderstanding, language barriers, lack of voice carried information) and capacity increase (by reducing the need for oral communication).

An interactive session explored the similarities and differences between aviation and rail. Both sectors face challenges relating to communication; the aviation sector emphasised the usefulness of simplifying language for their industry. Experts acknowledge the need for standardised communication, such as phraseology and pre-defined messages. Existing frameworks, such as the implementation of TSI OPE communication instructions in the railway sector, represent one way towards communication harmonisation. One of the challenges that was identified was the relatively high general language proficiency required in the railway sector, compared to the aviation sector, where the common and compulsory language is targeted to meet the needs of the real work. This so-called phraseology defines a language perimeter which makes work-related communication safe and efficient, and facilitates the training process.

Operational staff education and training was defined as another important subject. While international centres are available for training pilots and traffic controllers in the aviation sector, in the rail sector this is predominantly carried out nationally or as company-based training. The possibility of a central education centre for corridors was discussed by participants. With the implementation of ERTMS and the harmonisation of the rules, the existence of central education centres for the rail sector might become feasible in the future. Technological means and digital data exchange were also discussed as a means to increase communication efficiency.

The workshop concluded with participants expressing a newfound understanding of the procedures and decision-making processes across both sectors. The workshop offered an opportunity to understand the different natures of both the rail and aviation sectors and to understand their common challenges. The need for a defined work-related perimeter language in the rail sector, like the aviation phraseology, was discussed. The overarching theme was the importance of interoperability, harmonisation and aligning visions to overcome challenges and enhance cross-sector communication, while considering the different safety cultures and needs of the sectors. The workshop proved instrumental in fostering mutual learning and collaboration.

For further information, please contact Parinaz Bazeghi, UIC Digital Project Manager at

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