The UIC guide to standardisation

A Guide to Standardisation: how IRSs are developed and where they fit in the world of standardisation

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Standardisation: the UIC role

UIC has been an SSO (standards setting organisation) since its creation in 1922, and technical harmonisation of the railway system remains one of its core objectives. Its members — the operators of the world’s railways — have, over the years, developed the “UIC code” comprising UIC leaflets, which define common rules to ensure safety and efficiency in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the railway system. Many of these rules are also applied outside the railway operating community.

Rail transport is about offering an attractive product to the customer which they choose to use as their land transport mode of choice. It is also about technical harmonisation and compatibility:

  • Compatibility between infrastructure and tracks, and the rolling stock that operates on these tracks
  • Compatibility between traction units and various sources of energy supply
  • Compatibility train to train, thanks to signalling and traffic management systems designed to protect the trains from accidental contact and collisions with
    other trains or obstacles

For rail traffic operations to be safe and compatible, it makes common sense that they adhere to standardised rules based on technical harmonisation.

Technical harmonisation enables connections to be made between railway lines and, on a larger scale, between railway networks – thus enabling intercontinental corridors to link several continents by rail.

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