UIC estimated that the entire show drew nearly 3,000 visitors. The show floor itself spanned nearly 25,000 square feet, with exhibitions from a variety of companies. For example, Alstom Transport, a major U.S. and worldwide rail supplier, set up models of trains such as the Euroduplex, a double-decker train that has been operating on the Rhine-Rhône line in France since December 2011. There were also exhibitions featuring full-scale train interiors, technology demonstrations, and multimedia presentations, including one by the Japan California High Speed Rail Consortium that required 3-D glasses.
“I give a lot of credit to the show’s decorator, Freeman,” Horch said, “and also to UIC and APTA. I think over 80 percent of the [exhibitors] were international trade-show folks. … In that sense, more international than we’ve ever seen on the show floor.”
In addition to the events that took place inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Highspeed 2012 featured a series of site and technical tours, including trips to Amtrak’s Sunnyside Yard in Queens, N.Y., and to Wilmington Station in Delaware, which was built in 1907 by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Some attendees also visited the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) operations control center in Philadelphia, which dispatches all modes of public transportation in the area.
“Philadelphia was a phenomenal host,” Gallagher said, “and I was just so proud of everything that the CVB and the local transit agency [SEPTA], which is a member of APTA, and Amtrak - everything that everyone in that city did to make Philadelphia shine for international guests.”
Sidebar: Was Highspeed 2012 Derailed?
Funding for high-speed-rail projects in the United States is contentious. While states like California have recently approved money for their own programs, and the issue received a high-profile push from President Obama at the beginning of his administration, governors in Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin just last year rejected federal funding for the development of individual high-speed-rail programs in their states based on their estimates of low ridership and cost overruns.
What did it mean for high-speed rail’s premier industry event to convene in the United States for the first time in such a divisive climate? Peter Horch, director of events for the Pennsylvania Convention Center, which hosted the 8th World Congress on High Speed Rail, thought it was a good thing. “[California’s decision] boosted attendance even more, boosted a lot of local attendance,” Horch said. “It brought a lot of the other European transportation secretaries over to take a look at things - and in fact [the United States’] transportation secretary was here to open the show.”
Horch also said that he didn’t notice a lot of polarization among organizers and attendees, nor did the controversy seem to affect the planning process. And while officials from APTA and UIC were hesitant to draw specific comparisons between the California vote and their planning efforts, Railway Age magazine reported that APTA head Michael Melaniphy did note “perhaps it influenced events in some small way.” In the same article, UIC Director-General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux was quoted as saying: “We were certainly fortunate, weren’t we?”
For more information about UIC Highspeed 2012, visit uic-highspeed2012.com.