Interviews

02.05.12

A booming supply chain

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Apr/May 2012

Jeremy Candfield, Director General of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), speaks to RTM about the economic situation for rail businesses.

Recent surveys by major business groups have suggested that UK manufacturing is bouncing back after a tricky couple of years – although official data on manufacturing output and exporting does not yet reflect this.

But for the rail sector, at least, these are good times, with better prospects ahead.

Jeremy Candfield is Director General of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), which represents UK-based suppliers to the industry.

Ahead of the industry gathering in Birmingham for Infrarail 2012 to showcase their leading products and services, Candfield gave us his view of the current state of the supplier companies.

‘People feel optimistic’

He said: “At the moment, things are looking – for most sectors – really quite good. We’re carrying out one of our regular business surveys, which isn’t completed yet, but what it’s showing at the moment is a significantly higher level of confidence than we were seeing even a year ago.

“That’s really very encouraging. We’re seeing quite a lot of projects in design, and very major and well-known ones now going into implementation. That’s obviously causing people to feel optimistic about the near and medium-term, then for the longer term, we’re clearly looking towards High Speed 2.

“The confidence is not exclusively attributable to those big projects though. It is also true that Network Rail’s enhancement spend is at a level much higher now than it was at the start of CP4.

“There’s a lot more going on than the major projects alone: London Underground is spending at a high level on the renewal of its assets, and of course Network Rail has a major renewals programme going as well.”

Co-operation and competition

In the areas of franchise competition and rolling stock procurement, foreignbased companies are having an increasing – and, in some quarters, controversial – impact on UK businesses. Subsidiaries of foreign state-owned railways are having increasing success in being shortlisted to run franchises, and winning them – most recently on the Greater Anglia route, now run by Abellio, a subsidiary of stateowned Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways).

More controversially, Siemens beat Bombardier to the Thameslink rolling stock contract, and Hitachi Rail Europe won the Intercity Express Programme deal – although it, unlike Siemens, plans to assemble its trains in the UK. Obviously, none of these companies can be as classified as ‘UK’ or ‘foreign’ as easily as some would have it: Siemens was established in the UK 169 years ago and employs nearly 13,000 people here, including around 650 people in rolling stock maintenance, and will make use of the UK supply chain in delivering Thameslink rolling stock, while Bombardier is ultimately a Canadian company and would have been likely to import many components of its trains had it won the Thameslink contract, for example.

Candfield highlighted the extent to which there was a real story around co-operation, not just competition, in parts of the supply chain.

He said: “On the infrastructure side of things, there’s quite a degree of joint working that goes on between UK companies and overseas companies, but I wouldn’t say I’ve seen any marked trends making that more common or less common than it has been for quite awhile.

“We have to remember that we’re operating in an open market here: one of the most open of the substantial rail markets worldwide. So as well as foreign companies coming here, we have a lot of UK companies who are very visibly exporting. That’s going on all the time. Finally, a lot of the companies we’re dealing with, both UK companies and overseas companies, are actually multinationals, meaning it’s sometimes a little difficult to tell!”

Industry engagement

Candfield suggested that RIA membership has been rising recently, and explained: “We provide companies with a lot of what we call ‘direct services’ – information supply, and things of that nature – but perhaps what really makes us stand out for new members is the opportunities we offer for engagement with the industry, and with the rest of the supply industry. That involves networking in numerous meetings and also promoting dialogue between them and the major client organisations: Network Rail, London Underground, TOCs and so on.

“We do a great deal of that, and companies plainly find it helpful, because it’s now often cited as an important reason for companies joining RIA. Take that alongside the areas of work that are ongoing on the technical front here – there’s a huge emphasis on trying to break down some of the barriers to innovation in particular, work on standards, plus exports promotion is a major part of RIA’s portfolio – and we are quite encouraged by the growth in RIA membership.”

A big positive for Candfield, he said, is the changing culture at Network Rail, and its race to be more open, more welcoming, and to involve industry expertise at earlier stages.

He said: “Without doubt Network Rail has embraced early contractor involvement in a whole series of projects, some of them really quite important. It’s obviously much too early to see the outcome of that, but if you look at their developing contracting strategy, they quite properly identify a series of different forms of contractual relationship between themselves and suppliers. It wouldn’t be appropriate to think of early contractor involvement as being appropriate in all circumstances, but they identify a range of options, which is right, and they are making serious strides towards greater involvement of contractors at an early stage.

“They are adjusting their own resource pool to fit that challenge, which is exactly what they should be doing.”

NSARE

Candfield and RIA were early backers of the establishment of NSARE, and he serves as its deputy chairman. As explained on pages 38-41, NSARE is flourishing at the moment.

Candfield explained the background behind the decision to support the organisation in its early days, saying: “We could see the prospects of very substantial shortages of skilled people arising, partly for demographic reasons, and partly because of the volume of activity coming on-stream or prospectively coming on-stream. We thought it was really important to do whatever we could, and whatever the industry collectively could, to encourage an outcome in which there would be a pool of skilled labour available, and at a volume appropriate, to service this volume of work.

“Plus, it has to be said, in relation to existing employees, there have been concerns about the volume of training being undertaken, the quality of training, the importance of accreditation – and the desirability of having transferable skills between different employers.

“So there are a whole series of reasons, but fundamentally, they boil down to ensuring that the industry has got the right people available to do the job at the right time.”

Readers can meet RIA at stand M01 at Infrarail 2012.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Rail North Partnership review sets out recommendations

19/07/2019Rail North Partnership review sets out recommendations

A review of the Rail North Partnership, headed by Leeds Council leader cllr Judith Blake and rail minister Andrew Jones, has set out recommendati... more >
TfL announces 4G for London Underground in 2020

19/07/2019TfL announces 4G for London Underground in 2020

Transport for London (TfL) have announced that 4G will be available on parts of the London Underground from March 2020. The eastern half of ... more >
Study of light rail finds Manchester Metrolink one of best in the world

19/07/2019Study of light rail finds Manchester Metrolink one of best in the world

An international study of light rail systems has identified Metrolink as one of the best in the world. The system was rated as fifth best in... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Apprentice to Co-leading the Rail Sector Deal

05/06/2019Apprentice to Co-leading the Rail Sector Deal

In a series of Q&A’s with key speakers on the run up to TransCityRail Midlands, we caught up with TransCityRail panellist and Amey’s commercial account director, Anna Delvecchio, for her insight into what the Rail Sector Deal means for the rail industry and its supply chain. Anna started her career as an apprentice at the age o... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

comment

The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >
Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

02/07/2019Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

Smart electrification is the way to boost clean energy resources, argues Leo Murray, director at 10:10 Climate Action. Contractors are clear... more >
Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

02/07/2019Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

The TCR Midlands conference is only days away and tickets are going fast for the sector event of the year at the Vox Conference Centre in Birming... more >

rail industry focus

View all News

interviews

Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

By Ewan Quayle, Rail Technology Magazine Reporter Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on R... more >