RNE Anniversary Interview with Philipp Koiser

Philipp Koiser holds the position as RNE’s Head of Capacity Management including Timetable Redesign for Smart Capacity Management (TTR). He commenced his career at RNE a decade ago in 2014 and has since become a valued employee and expert, with big visions for the future of the railway sector.

RNE: Philipp, you have started to work for RNE in 2014. Tell us a little bit about your ‘path’ leading to RNE?

Philipp Koiser: My career in railways was something of a series of coincidences. After graduating from business school in Vienna, I had several jobs, but none which was eventually fulfilling. Upon my return from a 6-month time-out in Brazil, my father – a shunter at ÖBB – handed me a call for traffic controllers at ÖBB, which I found appealing from the beginning. Approximately a year into my job, I tumbled over an interesting call at ÖBB’s network access department, where I was introduced to timetabling. My fascination with railway grew to the point that I even studied Railway-Infrastructure during this time. It didn’t take long for me to take over several international subjects, which led me to also participate in RNE meetings. 

When RNE was looking for a Sales and Timetabling Manager in 2014, I was very eager to take on this challenge because I saw the immense value of international cooperation based on common processes. And still today I find my inspiration in what I emphasized in my application back then: I enjoy the challenge to find solutions for problems. 

RNE: A key project you have accompanied during all your time at RNE was the Timetable Redesign (TTR). Why does this program carry such high importance for you?

Philipp Koiser: In my school days in the late 90s I experienced the transformation into the digital age live: I still learned how to use typewriters and to stenograph but graduated with all written tests on computers which were all connected to the internet. I was taken aback years later when working for rail infrastructure our main clients brought in several paper folders containing their path requests. Distribution within the company wasn’t possible without copying machines.

A large part of the international coordination was done in the same manual way. Besides the astonishment of outdated methods, I saw the high effort needed. At the same time, I experienced the increase in number of applicants. We just couldn’t go on like this.

But there were silver linings as well: We already used the RNE Pathfinder, the predecessor of the Path Coordination System (PCS), yet working by copy-pasting from the national systems.

We needed a vision of an integrated, cooperative, competitive, market-oriented, and digitalized railway system in Europe.

RNE: RailNetEurope and TTR have come a long way since your beginnings at RNE. Compared to back then, what are the biggest changes you would highlight?

Philipp Koiser: When starting at RNE in 2014, the department which nowadays are the Capacity Management and Capacity Management IT departments, consisted of 3 employees with a manageable scope of activities. Over time, the team grew and achieved a higher rate of stability to our IT developments, we increased the productiveness and – most importantly – we raised awareness of our vision in the sector.

How successful this journey was can be easily seen in three aspects:

  • TTR is not considered a niche development known only to some European timetabling connoisseurs, but a recognized solution for integrated European capacity management which found its way into a European draft Regulation.
  • PCS is no longer just an online platform to exchange some information on timetabling, but a tool with a sound logic, interfaces, and standards, ready to leap into the next digital evolution.
  • Digitalization of European capacity management processes is not just seen as on-top, but as key to success for railways in the modal split.

RNE: In your opinion, are there areas of RNE activities which are not talked about too often?

Philipp Koiser: RNE has always been a powerhouse of knowledge in its respective business areas.

In my early days we were able to maintain this status with around 15 employees in the Joint Office. But with the massive increase of demand towards RNE, we grew close to 70 Joint Office staff members, all experts in their respective area. Of it, I proudly lead the highly professional and motivated Capacity Management department of 9 employees, which is completed with an evenly big Capacity Management IT department.

This size enables RNE not only to perform its core tasks on a high-quality basis, but also to increase the potential of each employee. Learning by doing, exchange with each other, trainings, providing flexibility for studies and looking to our stakeholders is a key strength of RNE. I enjoyed the luxury of growing professionally together with my department and happily share my experiences with our staff. We even introduced the possibility for internships for RNE Members’ staff to provide a European perspective.

With this attitude, RNE also actively contributes to the necessary increase of professionalism of European railways.

RNE: Are there any stories or anecdotes that come to your mind?

Philipp Koiser: There are so many stories because you meet so many interesting people in this job and in railways experts can be quite passionate. However, the only time I got hurt was entirely self-inflicted.

My very first meeting, one of the RU Advisory Group, took place in Paris. I was quite nervous, knowing that there is no second chance for a good first impression. I entered the room, but before I started to introduce myself, I placed my laptop-bag in one corner of the room. Afterwards, as I wanted to take my laptop, I only realized through a harsh bumping that the counter was exactly where I bent over, leaving my forehead cut open and bloody.

Back then my tension skyrocketed as I was sure I left a memorable first impression, just not the one I envisioned. Today, I am able to laugh about this incident: The scar has since faded, and I can honestly tell the story of how I left my first RNE meeting bloody.

RNE: What do you see and wish for the future of RNE?

Philipp Koiser: I had many years of wonderful experiences at RNE with many people who dedicate(d) their work to making railways simply better. This allowed the European Commission to take a lot of inspiration from the sector by providing a bottom-up draft Regulation last year.

My wish would be that all these efforts come to fruition soon with RNE continuing to contribute to a modern railway system.

At one point I would like to look back at the way we did things “back in the old days” with amazement how far we have come since then.

We still have quite a journey ahead of us, but if we keep the spirit and attitude, I am convinced that RNE can grow further into the go-to entity when it comes to a modern, innovative, efficient and digitalized European railways.