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The Future of Rail is in your

Rail Champions founder and managing director Chris Williams-Lilley reports back from the recent Future of Rail Conference, and RTM also hears from conference producer Matthew Edwards.

scrutiny and passenger numbers soared to new record highs. “Do we want to go back to what we had?” Jim exclaimed.


having to change the habit of a lifetime – thanks to Marketforce and

the world-class speakers we heard at the Future of Rail Conference held on November 27 at One Whitehall Place, London. I used to dread trade or industry conferences and, like many of the times before, thought I’d last till midday before making an early exit. However, I was met with probably the most exclusive line-up of expert rail industry speakers, from all quarters of the globe, sharing their own personal experiences, but more importantly, recognising that the future of rail is in our hands.

There were two big events last year that became a focal point of the debates, namely the rail industry’s performance during the Olympics, where a new standard was set for public transport, and then we had the West Coast Main Line franchise bid collapse, which will have ramifi cations for a few years to come.

Which leads me to Jim Taylor (general manager for transport at technology company CSC), a guest speaker from the USA,

who reminded us that all the TOCs and station staff working

through the games “went the extra mile…we all recognised the value of human touch”.

Britain delivered a stunning performance when the reliability of the railway was under daily


An obvious benchmark, compared to the normal standards enjoyed during the daily commute – I can see his point. The Games and the exemplary behaviour of all our railway staff proved we can pull together in extreme circumstances. It was the ‘people’ who made the difference. Baked-in intelligence, coping with the unexpected, scenario planning and workforce management all contributed to the success of the Games. We must learn from this experience and continue the benefi ts arising from a collaborative approach to deliver a truly world-class rail sector.

Moving on to the small matter of the WCML franchise collapse, an internal Department for Transport investigation led by businessman Sam Laidlaw, who found that “organisational changes and resourcing constraints” contributed to fl aws in the franchising process.

David Brown, group chief executive at Go-Ahead Group, speaking on behalf of the Rail Delivery Group, commented: “There has to be leadership and governance, which would increase the

capabilities of both the TOCs and the DfT. We More stories like this at: comment

Below: Games Makers and railway staff in action at Stratford International during the Olympics.

need to get closer to the problem and take full accountability.”

That was a view shared by everyone in the room.

Remember, with railways carrying more passengers than in the 1920s, there must be closer scrutiny and collaboration on all aspects of workbank planning, supply chain management and route-based planning


ensure the industry as a whole meets the targets set out by Sir Roy McNulty in the Rail Value For Money Review.

So here’s the rub: we need behavioural change, we need engagement with the supply chain, and a clearer scope of supply (for both franchisee and infrastructure upgrades). Only then will progress be made and the funding gap reduced.

It was pointed out that there are at least 250 industry organisations in the rail sector, most working in isolation.

A view from the organiser

Conference producer Matthew Edwards said: “Three key factors made this year’s The Future of Rail such a success. The fi rst was the audience: they brought competing perspectives from across the sector and contributed to the day’s high level of debate and engagement.

“The second was the context – it is certainly not a dull time to be working in rail. Of course there

are challenges, but the conference

highlighted all the positives: alliances and the RDG are revolutionising how the industry is working together, and the devolution agenda at Network Rail is promising great things for the delivery of the infrastructure of the future.

“Finally, the speakers were fantastic – Sir Brian Souter was characteristically provocative but was more or less kept in line by our fantastic chair Adrian Shooter. Following this year’s event, Keith Greenfi elds, managing director of Heathrow Express, called it ‘one of the most useful conferences I have attended’. I couldn’t agree more.”

20 | rail technology magazine Dec/Jan 13

© Felix O

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