RAIL E-SSENTIALS

Your regular update for technical and industry information

Your regular update for technical and industry information

An interview with Dr. Martin Webhofer, CEO of TÜV SÜD Rail

Since beginning of this year, Dr. Martin Webhofer (47) is now the new spokesman for the Management Board of TÜV SÜD Rail GmbH. The TÜV SÜD company is among the leading independent providers of testing, inspection and certification services for the rail industry. Dr. Webhofer succeeds Klaus Bosch, who is retiring after building up TÜV SÜD Rail to its present eminent status. He runs the company together with Jan de Leon (CFO). We talked to him about tasks, strategies, and opportunities.

Dr Martin Webhofer (46) is now the new spokesman for the Management Board of TÜV SÜD Rail GmbHDr. Webhofer, you successfully managed the “wind business” at TÜV SÜD Industry Service for more than 10 years. What experience are you bringing to your new position at TÜV SÜD Rail?

M. Webhofer: I’ve been working for 17 years in various business areas and different functions from expert at the beginning to business unit manager and nowadays managing director. This experience and expertise, for example in dealing with employees, colleagues and customers, in technical discussions, assessing market trends and developing strategies, or working together with colleagues worldwide, helps a lot.

Does this mean you are bringing a breath of fresh air to the rail business?

M. Webhofer: (Laughs) You’d have to ask my colleagues – but yes, I think so. Standing still is not my thing.

Could you describe to us what you do?

M. Webhofer: In the past, TÜV SÜD Rail always took its bearings from the market and technological developments, and this made it possible for it to position itself with an extensive portfolio. On this basis we were well equipped to deal with changes in the market. However, this also included decisions to abandon certain services at the right moment in order to invest in other pioneering areas. We are also well-positioned with our services internationally. In order to be able to follow and implement this constant change in line with the market, the know-how, flexibility and agility of our employees are particularly important, as the success of TÜV SÜD Rail is largely due to our committed colleagues who are passionate about the railway.

What’s your strategy for ensuring that things continue to go well in the future?

M. Webhofer: There’s a lot happening in the market at the moment and the rail industry is packed with exciting innovations and dynamic developments. Important drivers are digitalisation and automation. Over the next few years, the shift toward even more efficient and climate-neutral rail transport, in both passenger and freight transport, will also have a major impact on everyone at TÜV SÜD Rail, and this trend offers many opportunities. Our experts are prepared for new challenges such as the cybersecurity of railway systems and ensure that innovative systems also meet the high expectations for safety and reliability in the railway sector.

"The rail industry is packed with exciting innovations and dynamic developments."

FOR EXAMPLE?

M. Webhofer: There are many opportunities for us in the context of digitalisation: Among other things, in the digitalisation of interlockings, the introduction of digital automatic couplings or equipping vehicles with the European Train Control System, or ETCS for short. Likewise in the area of modern metro systems with an ever-higher degree of automation or the autonomously driving people movers with Communication Based Train Control, CBTC for short: a system for train control which allows a train's position to be known more accurately and to reduce headways while maintaining or even improving safety. For us, this means on the one hand that we have to be at the forefront of know-how, and on the other hand that it is particularly important to network knowledge and to cooperate in an interdisciplinary manner with other divisions and our colleagues in the national companies abroad. The railway market is very internationally oriented. But also, our testing methods and tools must constantly follow the new technologies and be further developed, not only in order to constantly improve the quality and informative value, but also to remain efficient and thus competitive.

Another topic is the use of green hydrogen as an energy carrier for emission-free propulsion, which will be a climate-friendly alternative to diesel engines in the future. Our experts are already involved globally in the approval processes of hydrogen and battery-powered rail vehicles, which enable climate-neutral rail transport on non-electrified lines, as well as projects around hydrogen tank systems and fuel cells to combine their knowledge and experience from the various technical domains. As with hydrogen technology, safety tests also play a decisive role for energy storage in traction batteries of multiple units and locomotives. Together with our project partners, we contribute our experience from the projects to the standards work in order to establish a regulated verification system.

THIS YEAR ALSO THE ROLLING STOCK TEST CENTER CELEBRATED ITS 25TH ANNIVERSARY. WHICH STRATEGY ARE YOU FOLLOWING WITH THE BUSINESS OF THE RAIL VEHICLE TEST CENTER?

M. Webhofer: We have always considered it particularly important not only to test rail vehicles and components based on documents, but also to carry out relevant stationary tests and track tests on our own test benches and test tracks. That is why we continue to pursue the consistent expansion of our competencies and capacities in this area.

With the takeover of the testing division of the Swiss PROSE group, we have once again expanded our previous test spectrum, so that the specialist areas of dynamic testing and simulations for vehicle homologation, braking technology, fatigue resistance, pantographs, or tensile and shock devices as well as crash tests, aerodynamics, machine dynamics, electrics and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) as well as vehicle acoustics are now covered. With the experience gained from the practical tests, we can, for example, also compare simulation results with the real test results and thus constantly develop our theoretical know-how.

WHAT FASCINATES YOU ABOUT RAIL?

M. Webhofer: To be honest, I'm not so much a railway romantic. Of course, I had a model railway as a little boy and also built various tracks through the living room with my two sons. I’m particularly interested in the technical diversity and complexity of the systems, but also by the potential for sustainable mobility.

"I am convinced that the modernisation and expansion of rail transport systems will make a good contribution to greater sustainability."

DO YOU ALSO PREFER TO TAKE THE TRAIN PRIVATELY?

M. Webhofer: I take the train as often as possible, either privately or on business trips, because you can occupy yourself sensibly or simply relax during the journey. In the end, however, the choice of transport often depends on the destination. During the Whitsun holidays, for example, I travelled with my family by high-speed train from Munich to Paris in six hours. The long journey, the traffic, the parking in Paris: we could do without all that and we were kind to the environment.

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