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5 minutes with... Philippe Leguay, International Director Urban Railway Transport Systems at Keolis

Posted by Sarah Wright on Jul 8, 2016

Philippe_Leguay_International_Director_Urban_Railway_Transport_Systems_at_Keolis.jpg"I’m convinced that regional and international rail projects will also see a similar trend for automation..."

Have you ever imagined yourself a globe trotter? Heading from one destination to another, giving solutions to the rail industry along the way? Well, that’s exactly how our interviewee, Philippe Leguay spends his time as the International Director Urban Railway Transport Systems at Keolis. The reach of Keolis is huge, spanning four continents and sixteen countries, carrying roughly three billion passengers a year and reporting an annual turnover of €6.4 billion. Today, SmartRail World reporter Sarah Wright learns how Leguay found his way into the industry, hears about his average day, his view on the UK’s recent Referendum on the European Union and much more...

SW: How did you get into the rail industry?

Philppe Leguay (PL): That’s a pretty long and passionate story… When I was very young, it was my dream to become an Engineer. At that time, I had a great deal of interest in industrial automatic equipment used by the agricultural industry: tractors, harvesters threshing…   Probably unsurprising as my father was a farmer in the Centre-West of France! Looking back, this was my first step into the rail industry. Several years later, as a student of Engineering, I discovered the link between the economy, society and transport. Three key elements of creating a good quality of life and making countries efficient. I came to the decision to apply for metro operating job for the Paris ‘underground. The RATP Company recruited me and my destiny was on the right track! I started my rail industry career in 1984 with RATP and I never left! Since I have worked for Eurotunnel, Lausanne Metro and now Keolis working across 5 Continents.

SW: What do like most about your job?

PL (@PhilippeLeguay): I completed my training with an executive MBA from HEC and UCLA. However, my passion is for engineering, and this is the thing I really enjoy. My role at Keolis involves the design and conception of efficient rail public transports systems and the preparation and organisation necessary to launch and operate efficiently. As well as: recruitment, training, considering procedures, testing and commissioning. I am lucky to play an active part in the complete development of railway transport from conception to operation! I’m currently involved within the UITP in two working groups: the ‘Observatory of Automated Metros’ and the ‘New Generation of Trains Control Systems’. What I like more and more in my job is the incredible opportunity to work worldwide, allowing me to meet and work with very different culture and behaviour across Europe, India, Canada, the USA, Africa, Australia, the Middle East and Asia.

SW: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?

Putting Public Transport at the Heart of Tomorrow's Smart Cities.

PL: Each project, each country is a new and a big challenge. In my role the biggest challenge I face is giving the right advice to the Public Transport Authorities (PTA). Each time it’s a challenge to hear understand and even more to identify the requirement and constraints that are not clearly expressed. It’s crucial for me to get a clear picture of the project and to propose the relevant advice/answer that will make the difference in comparison to our competitors. For example, I’ve been able to help and support India’s Hyderabad Metro (75km of track running over 3 lines) select CBTC technology for the first. Another example was London’s Docklands Light Railway (DLR) contract won by Keolis, in which ensured the client (PTA and Passengers were the heard) we gave them a strong vision and action plan to significantly enhance the metro operation.

SW: What will be some of the biggest differences between rail now and in 10 years’ time?

PL: Automation will be the biggest evolution in rail transport. Keolis is currently the World leader in metro driverless operation. The first full driverless metro (GoA4) was launched in Lille North of France by Keolis 33 years ago. Since then, the development of automation within the rail transport has gradually grown. As an expert in the area I can appreciate and evaluate the trend in rail automation. The trend is becoming exponential, for greenfield projects in Dubai, Doha, Riyadh, Shanghai, Barcelona, Milan, Turin, Grand Paris, Singapore, and Copenhagen but also for brownfield projects in Paris, Lille, Lyon, London, Madrid and Vienna. I’m convinced that regional and international rail projects will also see a similar trend for automation. Automation offers a great potential for rail efficiency enhancement: safety, service delivery quality and capacity, costs efficiency (Life Cycle Costs reduction).

SW: With a result that shocked many, not least the rail industry, on the 23rd July 2016 the UK voted to leave the European Union. Now the referendum results are in what impact do you think that the vote to leave will have on the industry?

PL: Personally I’m not surprised by the referendum results. My feeling is that a majority of countries within the European Union (EU) would, unfortunately, come to a similar conclusion should they have an opportunity for a similar referendum. My fear is for the future of a united Europe. We are far stronger as a team than as individuals. That is especially true for railway development, as we all know transport is one major pillar of economic development and sustainability. The actual problem lies with the governance of the EU. It is not democratic enough and often is far too administrative. We need to build a new EU, taking in account the experienced gain from this first one, and believe that the UK can once again be a member of this new Europe. My feeling is that the short and mid-term impact for the UK’s rail and transport development will be significant - transport costs would rise and UK Rail industry would suffer. We all remember that the railways were invented by someone from the UK! Within some years, the EU may have to say thank you to the UK for having taken the risk to force a change that builds a new, more successful EU, which in turn helps improve the rail sector.

I’m very positive for the future, this first union was a pretty good start and can be a viewed as a draft to prepare for a new and better version of a European Union! (Editor - for more on Brexit and Rail - Britain to leave the EU; the rail industry responds ).

Lyon_to_Paris_Train.jpg

Lyon_to_Paris_Train.jpgSW: And to conclude, what is your favourite rail journey?

PL: My favourite rail journey (and my most frequent one!) is the train between Lyon and Paris. I travel between the two for work, with my main office in Lyon and the Keolis headquarters in Paris. I also spend a significant amount of time in Paris advising on the design of the future Grand Paris Metro, which will be made up of 4 lines and 200km of track. The third reason I like this trip is because I often take the plane from Paris to work abroad. Paris is my first stop before heading to India, the Middle East, Canada and Africa! The High speed connection between Lyon and Paris takes just 2 hours, travelling a distance of more than 450 km. It’s a pretty similar commute time the average Parisian going to work! It would be my dream that this train, one of the most crowded in France, would become the first French regional train to be fully automated.

SW: Thank you so much for your time Philippe!


Philippe Leguay is a confirmed expert speaker at SmartMetro (incorporating the 7th Annual CBTC World Congress taking place in Copenhagen along with 40+ industry leaders. Join our senior-level attendees at the definitive technology show of the year by clicking here


5 minutes with… You? Each Friday the team here at SmartRail World will bring you a great new 5 minutes with... interview. This fun, fast-paced feature will help you get to know more about personalities across the industry, their ideas and experiences and of course their own favourite rail journey! Want to take part? Email: sarah.wright@globaltransportforum.com to find out more. 

Last week's 5 minutes with... 5 minutes with... Adeline Ginn, Founder of Women in Rail

Next week's 5 minutes with... To be confirimed.

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Sarah Wright

Written by Sarah Wright

Post studying for a Masters in History at the University of Essex and taking time out to travel Europe and South East Asia, Sarah came into the world of events and marketing. She has been putting her communication skills and creativity to good use here with us since.

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