URVIS – facilitating rolling stock financing

URVIS – facilitating rolling stock financing
An identifier to ensure the financial traceability of rolling stock assets

Private sector investment in the rail freight sector is quite substantial but recognition, priorities and enforcement of creditor and lessor rights present issues of concern.

URVIS as a requirement of the Luxembourg Rail Protocol (LRP) is the Unique Rail Vehicle Identification System, in force as of 8 March 2024. URVIS provides a 16-digit unique identification number that uniquely identifies rolling stock of all types of equipment regardless of manufacturer or location. That number is affixed on a minimum of two plates, one on each side of the railway rolling stock item to be marked. The security interests of banks and lessors are registered against the URVIS identifier in a global system and accessible 24/7.

URVIS is thus designed to increase certainty, reduce investment risks and simplify financing for private sector lenders and lessors. It is meant to give a boost to asset-based financing for the acquisition and use of railway rolling stock, reducing legal cross-border issues and providing confidence on the ability to recover rolling stock in case of defaults.

Signing up in the international register will remain on a voluntary basis but is expected to be adopted gradually by the rail industry.

URVIS has come a long way

The idea of URVIS developed its roots more than 20 years ago under the intergovernmental organisation Unidroit. Back in 2001 the “Cape Town Convention was adopted under Unidroit and entered into force in 2006. Its purpose is to standardize finance transactions involving movable assets. Based on this convention but specifically relating to railway rolling stock matters, the Luxembourg Rail Protocol (LRP) was adopted in 2007 and is in force as of 8 March 2024.

It is this Luxembourg Rail Protocol as a world-wide legal framework that stipulates URVIS as a requirement to identify railway rolling stock unambiguously and to provide an identity trail even though the railway rolling stock may be sold, used in another state or extensively modified.

As the winner of an international call for tender by OTIF, Regulis SA ( a subsidiary owned by Canadian Information Services Cooperation) based in Luxembourg was chosen in 2014 to operate the public international registry for URVIS for when the LRP enters into force.

In 2016 the European Railway Agency (ERA) decided upon presentation of URVIS in a RVRR (Rationalisation of Vehicle‐Related Registers) meeting, that URVIS would not be added to the NVR record as it would be out of scope of the NVR register and potentially confusing.

And finally on 24 February 2023 the Model Rules for the Permanent Identification of Railway Rolling Stock were adopted by UNECE’s Inland Transport Committee (ITC) following expert group meetings in which UIP took also part. These rules establish the framework that lays down the methods and responsibilities for affixing the Unique Rail Vehicle Identification System (URVIS) identifier to an item of railway rolling stock as envisaged by the Luxembourg Rail Protocol.

The ratification of the LRP, which is in force as of 8 March 2024 has opened the way for URVIS.

A revision committee at UNECE level manages the rules on permanent identification and a Supervisory Authority at OTIF level takes care for example of supervising the registrar, defining the fees and managing complaints.