The people behind the wheel: Hiba Farès’ story, RATP Dev
For the latest instalment of Intelligent Transport’s exclusive ‘The people behind the wheel’ series, Hiba Farès, CEO of RATP Dev, provides insight into her own journey and experiences to emphasise the industry’s potential for positive change and calls for a diverse, purpose-driven workforce to come together and drive the evolution of public transport towards a more inclusive, environmentally friendly and impactful future.
Can you tell us about your role at RATP Dev?
RATP Dev is the private-sector arm of RATP Group, which runs the large-scale, ultra-dense, future-ready public transport network of Paris. We operate the metro, tram and bus networks that people use every day – serving over 100 cities and their communities in 15 countries across the world – in France, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the U.S., Italy and much more.
Today, we have to battle inflation, staff shortages in a war for talents, lower ridership due to new work habits – all at a time when it has never been more critical to invest in public mobility”
This year, my priority is the transformation of the company. The post-COVID-19 era has upended public transport, which had been a stable business model for decades. Today, we have to battle inflation, staff shortages in a war for talents, lower ridership due to new work habits – all at a time when it has never been more critical to invest in public mobility to decarbonise cities and their surrounding areas.
Everywhere across the planet, countries and cities are re-inventing their ambition. They are navigating how they can uphold their reputation; ensure equal access to economic opportunities for all; provide mobility solutions to all of their residents, regardless of their wealth, abilities or where they live; and, of course, how they can reduce congestion and pollution that plague everyday life in many parts of the world, as well as address the environmental challenges of climate urgency and resource efficiency.
This is reflected in one of the biggest pipelines of new projects that we have ever seen. It’s due to this reason that, together with my significantly evolved team, we are in the process of re-thinking our strategic priorities. We are also reconsidering the framework of governance and the structure of our organisation that will help us to achieve our goals.
These are truly exciting times to be in public transport!
What inspired you to seek a career in the transport industry?
I joined the transport industry because no other industry combines technical expertise, sense of purpose and everyday relevance in people’s lives”
I started my career in the Hospitality sector – which is a people’s business, just like public transport. That’s where I first realised how much business challenges needed to be addressed with both managerial transformation and mindset change.
I joined the transport industry because no other industry combines technical expertise, sense of purpose and everyday relevance in people’s lives, as well as cities, travellers and the planet as key stakeholders. Getting it right is endlessly satisfying!
In addition, my current role combines a truly global reach and the amazing showcase of the Paris transport network. Leveraging the unrivalled assets of Paris and our experience across countries, cities and cultures in order to win in the international marketplace is fascinating.
Has a career in transport changed your perception of the industry as a whole?
Public transport is an essential backbone to a vibrant city life, and a connector of local communities. It carries workers, students and the physically challenged, for a relatively modest price”
Undoubtedly. I believe we should all be much more forceful ambassadors of public transport, as it boasts unrivalled environmental, social and societal virtues.
Public transport is an essential backbone to a vibrant city life, and a connector of local communities. It carries workers, students and the physically challenged, for a relatively modest price. It is great for the environment – we are talking 60 times less carbon per traveller and kilometre in a metro than in a car – and emissions from trains, metros and trams are negligible. It employs essential frontline workers that remain unrecognised. Finally, in most places, public transport is safer, less expensive, quicker, easier and more reliable to take than to drive your own car.
Yet – many people are still taking their cars. In some places, that’s because cars are the only option to go to places because the network is not dense enough – but, in many other places, people who could hop on a bus or metro prefer to drive their cars, despite the individual costs, hassle and the negative collective impact.
Therefore, re-thinking mobility is what should drive us all. Affirming our unique social and environmental contribution, amazing technical expertise and 24/7 commitment are critical.
Join the cause!
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I aspire to see cities across the world become more breathable, more equitably shared between all mobility modes, more attractive, more accessible and more vibrant”
In five years’ time, when I’m prompted by Intelligent Transport to look back on my words today, I would love to be able to reflect on how much public transport has changed and how widely it has grown – reaching new cities, countries and communities.
In this future scenario, I aspire to see cities across the world become more breathable, more equitably shared between all mobility modes, more attractive, more accessible and more vibrant. Above all, I’d like to see a future where public transport has been hailed as an instrumental contributor to combating climate change – which will be firmly on the way to being tackled.
And, of course, I hope to proudly acknowledge that my team heads one of the most attractive, purposeful, efficient, modern and diverse companies in the transportation industry!
What key pieces of advice would you give to someone who is interested in a career in transport?
The transportation industry is not about making lots of money, it is not a one-size-fits-all business model and it will never solely be about technical achievements. It’s about people”
I don’t feel I should be giving advice, but what I would say is: if you are interested in purpose and driving change, this is the place to be!
The transportation industry is not about making lots of money, it is not a one-size-fits-all business model and it will never solely be about technical achievements.
It’s about people – those you hire and train, those you transport and care for, those you connect and those you serve. It’s about making a difference, impacting society, transforming urban life and fighting climate change.
So, if you are interested in operations, maintenance, strategy, finance, contract management and commerce, please do join us!
In the future, what do you hope to see become more commonplace in the transport industry workforce?
Advancing gender diversity in a non-diverse industry requires a complete overhaul of our sourcing habits, hiring practices, quality of life at work conditions and more”
I hope for more women. Today, the industry as a whole consists of 20% women, and only 10% when focusing on drivers and frontline roles. Therefore, we need to aim for much more! Advancing gender diversity in a non-diverse industry requires a complete overhaul of our sourcing habits, hiring practices, quality of life at work conditions and more. And this is achievable.
Our network in South Africa has reached 50/50 gender equality; while our network in Riyadh has trained specifically women and now boasts Saudi Arabia’s first-ever bus drivers; and our network in Cairo has launched a hiring campaign dedicated to women, now boasting Egypt’s first-ever women metro drivers.
In addition, I hope for less invisibility of the critical social, societal and environmental role of public transport. That’s a collective endeavour. We should all endlessly trumpet our virtues, achievements and role in everyday life in cities everywhere. This, in turn, will make the industry more attractive to new talents.
Hiba Farès is the CEO of RATP Dev, having started her career at Air France – KLM in 2001, in charge of revenue management. She moved to the Accor Group in 2007, holding several operational positions before being appointed General Manager for the Novotel and Mercure brands. She then joined the RATP Group in 2018 as SVP, Customer Experience, Marketing and Services and member of the Executive Committee.