Editor's Comment

01.06.16

Leading the agenda in the uncertain times ahead

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 16

As RTM went to press, the result of the EU referendum had just been announced, with 52% voting to leave against 48% voting to remain, on a 72.16% turnout. 

Although the full consequences of a Brexit still remain unknown, with Article 50 unlikely to be triggered before a new prime minister is elected, there could, potentially, be a knock-on effect to the UK’s rail supply chain. 

Shortly after the EU referendum result was announced, we asked members of the supply chain for their thoughts and opinions. 

Those that replied tried to put out a reassuring message that investment would remain, but added that major rail projects would become ‘more crucial than ever’ to the UK’s global success post-Brexit. 

It felt quite timely, then, that this particular issue does just that: focuses on a range of major rail projects. For instance, we take an in-depth look at the developments of the Digital Railway programme, with contributions from the DfT’s Peter Wilkinson and Ben Dunlop from Atkins. 

We also interviewed Martin Arter, the Digital Railway development director, who says that the 25-year transformation programme is underway and plans to demonstrate its potential are gathering apace. 

A key aspect of transforming the UK’s railway is the push towards electrifying more of the network. While the DfT will probably be a little red in the face, after having to announce that the new Class 801 units for GWML will be bi-mode instead of an all-electric fleet, RTM has been assured that the new target dates for the Great Western Route Modernisation will be met. We were told that the Hendy Review, which effectively reset the GWML programme’s timetable, provided the team with “one opportunity” to get the work right. However, as you’ll read in our interview on page 44 with Andrew Haynes, there are ambitions to try and beat the revised target dates. 

As well as looking at electrification work across the country, RTM took a ride on the new Thameslink Class 700, which aims to transform the future of commuting in the capital. We also look at how major station upgrade works at Huddersfield and Glasgow Queen Street look to significantly improve the customer’s experience before they board a train. 

And although the Shaw Report was only launched in March, at the same time as the chancellor’s Budget, it feels like a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. While it is not yet known if Network Rail will create a new Northern route [Michael Holden is currently carrying out a review], as recommended by Nicola, it is likely that it will happen as the infrastructure owner has developed the new virtual freight route she proposed. We get an update on this from Network Rail’s Paul McMahon on page 84. 

All that is left for me to say is I hope you enjoy this edition of RTM.

David Stevenson

Editor

 

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