RNE Anniversary Interview with Péter Rónai

Péter Rónai joined the RNE Management Board in 2013, following participation in working groups and the RNE General Assembly. Initially, he was the Vice President responsible for the Network Statement and Corridor Information Document working group, and soon took over the responsibility of the Legal Matters Working Group, which remains his primary role within the organisation. In this capacity, he has developed good relations with OTIF, CIT, CER and EIM managers and legal representatives.

RNE: Péter, Which business area are you responsible for?

Péter Rónai: I am responsible for Legal Matters and Sales, including the supervision of the Legal Matters Working Group (LMWG). It’s interesting because I have no legal qualifications; I am a transport engineer and economist. However, just as in my job at MÁV Hungarian State Railways Co., I quickly became involved in legal matters at RNE as well, where legislation is interpreted, and agreements and contracts are drawn up.
This is probably due to the liberalisation of the rail market, which has brought legislation steps in the form of individual Rail Packages. Those involved in the granting open access, contracting network access, and track access charging have had to read and interpret a lot of legislation for themselves and their colleagues.

RNE: How do you see the development of RNE?

Péter Rónai: The opening of the rail infrastructure through consecutive railway packages was a new area for almost all infrastructure managers. Therefore, colleagues working in this area may have been accustomed to rapid developments and changes.
The development of RNE – and here I am primarily considering the amount of work it has done and the extent of its responsibilities – has been rapid even compared to this otherwise dynamic change in the railway world.

In a few years, a small office with a few basic tasks has evolved to a large international organisation with the characteristics of a medium-sized company and a wide range of activities.

It has been a great pleasure for me to be part of this transformation.

RNE: Do you envisage any challenges between your RNE responsibilities and your tasks for your national Infrastructure Manager?

Péter Rónai: I would like to say no, but the reality, yes. For a while, I thought that if I slowly got to know the different aspects of RNE, I would be able to do things routinely. Life has shown me that this is not the case: The world around us, particularly the regulatory environment around RNE, changes so quickly that it is impossible to do things by habit. You always have to approach a situation with a fresh mind, which requires considerably more energy. It is not possible to work here in a way that is perhaps familiar and practised elsewhere in the railway world.

RNE: Are there any anecdotes from your years with RNE you would like to share with us?

Péter Rónai: There was a brief period when LMWG-related issues were very heavily debated with colleagues, mainly via phone or conference software. Once, I had three long calls consecutively in English from my office. A Hungarian colleague, who also spoke good English, was waiting for me to finish the last call. When the call ended, he came into my room and asked me a question in English on his own topic. Unaware that I was talking to a fellow Hungarian, I responded in English as well, not even out of my linguistic comfort zone. He then laughed and told everyone else at our directorate that ‘Peter no longer understands Hungarian’.

This joke still comes up sometimes when I don’t grasp something right away; some people tease me with “so what, now I have to say it in English?”

RNE: If you could make a wish for RNE’s future – what would it be?

Péter Rónai: Readers may have heard the wisdom that “reality sometimes surpasses all imagination”. If someone had asked me the same question 10-12 years ago, I would not have imagined that our association would grow to 4-5 times higher in importance, in its tasks, staff, budget, visibility and acknowledged operation. Therefore, I hope that RNE will not be limited by any individual’s imagination, but will instead continue the path of perseverance, enthusiasm, professionalism, and devoted endurance of its staff.

Observing the RNE team, I believe they will exceed even my current wishes.

RNE: What do you find remarkable about the achievements of RNE in facilitating collaboration between railway companies?

Péter Rónai: Railways are traditionally nationally oriented in operation. International relations have developed more on the commercial side, an area that nowadays belongs to the railway undertakings. Infrastructure management has largely developed within national borders, with local arrangements being necessary at most for border traffic.

In this context, it amazes me what RNE has achieved in 20 years: It has brought together large public companies with little or no international orientation, not on abstract or theoretical issues, but rather in critical key areas of capacity allocation and traffic management, which directly impact day-to-day operations.

In this way, RNE is unique on the international stage and, in my opinion is exemplary of the coordination efforts it is carrying out in this challenging field.

RNE: What was your experience like negotiating with CIT, particularly in your capacity as the legal representative within RNE?

Péter Rónai: I became involved in negotiations with the International Rail Transport Committee (CIT) when I became responsible for the legal area within RNE. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience. Although there were of course minor and major disagreements due to differences of interest, especially during drafting the European Standard Contract of Use of Railway Infrastructure (E-SCU-I) in the joint working group, there was a commitment to a common goal on both sides.

Furthermore, personal relations have developed very well, leading to several invitations to give conference presentations and attend meetings. I have met very friendly, and at the same time, very professional and dedicated colleagues from CIT.