Rail Industry Focus

09.03.17

Celebrating innovation and achievement

Source: RTM Feb/Mar 17

The latest instalment of the UK Rail Industry Awards (UKRIA) proved to be the biggest success in the event’s illustrious history, with more than 1,100 guests gathering to celebrate the industry’s achievements and innovation at London’s Battersea Evolution.

The awards, now in their fourth year, attracted record-breaking numbers of submissions in a bid to win one of the 27 much sought-after accolades, which cover wide-ranging categories from Design Innovation through to Young Rail Professional of the Year. 

During the black-tie event, Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, delivered a rousing keynote speech, highlighting the need to celebrate the good things we are achieving in the rail sector, while also discussing the challenges facing the industry.  

“Fundamentally, the railway has managed to conceal a fabulous success story,” he said. “We now have the safest railway in Europe, but we’re not complacent; we also have the fastest-growing railway in Europe, passenger numbers have doubled since 1996, and rail freight has been booming.” 

It is an astonishingly good story if you’re able to tell it, but we struggle to, argued Sir Peter, adding that this is because large parts of the network are full and we’re facing problems with delays and congestion.

The often-outspoken Network Rail chair said: “We now have by far the most heavily congested railway in Europe. This means that more and more trains are overcrowded. And a single problem at one place at rush hour can have a knock-on effect to services hundreds of miles away. 

“But much has gone right. And that should be celebrated too. Just as your achievements are celebrated tonight. To keep pace with future forecast demand for rail, we’re going to need to do more than just lay more and more track. In many cities and towns there is simply no way, no space, to build new railways. And, if possible, it’ll be expensive! 

“We’re going to have to be bold about our solutions. In particular, we need to be bold about how we use technology. Digital rail is a massive opportunity for us all in the industry, and one that we must seize today.” 

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As well as featuring the address from Sir Peter, delegates also got a video link message from David Waboso, the man in charge of delivering the Digital Railway Programme. There was also a comprehensive video sting, which will be available to view online, highlighting the fantastic work that has been done by the industry in the last 12 months. 

Before the evening’s celebrations started, UKRIA guests enjoyed a champagne reception, with plenty of time for networking and catching up with colleagues. 

A new addition to this year’s event was the introduction of a Photobooth, sponsored by Furrer+Frey GB, which attracted much attention throughout the night. 

Noel Dolphin, managing director of Furrer+Frey GB, who has attended UKRIA for the last three years, said: “This is a huge awards night and such a massive thing in the industry. It is certainly the biggest awards in the industry, so it is something we want to be a part of. It is our third year and we’ve loved coming here and brining guests. It was important for us to be involved.” 

Discussing the awards, he argued that innovation is the lifeblood of the railway. “It is how we win awards, how we get more business, how we grow and how the industry improves,” said Dolphin. “Innovation is everything that the railway is about. That is why we are supporting UKRIA.”

The Great Gatsby-themed evening was certainly a celebration of innovation. Mark Fielding-Smith, digital rail director at BAE Systems, the strategic sponsor of the event, said that UKRIA was a great opportunity to recognise collaboration, innovation and achievement in the rail industry. 

“I’ve been in rail for over 15 years, and it is a fascinating industry. It is also an exciting time in rail; it is a time of change, great technology and the passion in rail is unbelievable,” he added, reflecting that the last year has been a successful one for BAE in rail and the company wanted to share in everyone’s success at this year’s awards. 

Award-winning actor and comedian Stephen Mangan hosted this year’s event while delegates enjoyed a sumptuous three-course meal and live music from the acclaimed band Hipster. 

Social media activity for UKRIA, especially via Twitter, was incredible, with many guests interacting with the UKRIA2017 hashtag – a complete breakdown of the figures can be seen in the infographic on page 39. 

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This year’s awards were delivered in three instalments, with the first accolade being the Apprenticeship Development Scheme, which was taken home by Linbrooke Services. 

Speaking to RTM after winning the award, Ebony Soltani-James, marketing director at the company, said: “It is a really important award for Linbrooke, as we invest so much time and effort into young people, especially in the local area in Sheffield. 

“Our CEO Lee Hallam is very passionate about working with local businesses, people and schools. It is amazing to win this award, UKRIA is one of the biggest nights of the year – so to win the Apprenticeship Development Scheme accolade is fantastic.” 

Chris Woolridge, managing director of Wedge Group Galvanizing, UKRIA’s supporting partner, whose logo was emblazoned on all of the uniforms of people working at the event, revealed it was the first time the company has sponsored an event like this. 

“We are trying to grow the UK galvanising market, so we need to be on the top spot to get our name out there,” he said, adding that one of the benefits of an event like UKRIA is the networking opportunities with people who you would never otherwise meet in the industry. 

Network Rail and London Underground (LU) dominated this year’s UKRIA, taking home three trophies each for their contribution to the railways. 

The infrastructure owner won the Environmental & Sustainability award for its high output ballast work, and the Infrastructure Planning and Workforce Safety accolades for its ORBIS programme. 

LU celebrated with wins in the Electrification category for its Four Lines Modernisation scheme; the Outstanding Projects – Small (Under £3m) accolade for its ventilation system upgrade; and also took home the prestigious Track Technology trophy. 

The evening’s jewel-in-the-crown award, the Outstanding Projects – Large (Over £20m), went to the Staffordshire Alliance, which consists of VolkerRail, Atkins, Laing O’Rourke and Network Rail.

Dominic Baldwin, alliance director for East West Rail Phase 2, said it was a great success story and “that the vision for Stafford is to go and do the next big project, even bigger and better”. 

Commenting on the award, and the importance of UKRIA, Baldwin added: “I think Sir Peter said it: we don’t spend enough time actually recognising what we are doing and how well we are doing it. We are just very busy. 

“We need to spend a little bit more on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’. We need to keep delivering, because that is what we get measured by, but we also need to recognise the good things we are doing. With Stafford, hopefully, we’ll go on and do some even better work as well.” 

Last year’s keynote speaker Phil Hufton, who heads the network operations function across England and Wales at Network Rail, told us: “One of the main reasons I’m here is because, as an industry, we have to support these types of events. 

“Lots of great people do lots of great work, and I think what’s really important is recognition for the efforts that people really put into the industry. And I’m really pleased that some people associated with Network Rail are up for an award. But for everyone in the industry, it’s just a great time to celebrate everything that’s happening within Network Rail and the railway industry as a whole.” 

As well as Network Rail and LU taking home accolades, there was a host of other multiple-award winners at UKRIA, including newcomers and SMEs, with Fugro RailData taking home the Cost Base Reduction and Design Innovation categories; MTR Crossrail being named winner in Recruitment Excellence and Traction & Rolling Stock; and Young Rail Professionals winning the Marketing & Communications and Training & Development trophies. 

The prestigious Operator of the Year award  went to Rail Operations Group, which was only granted a train operator license in May 2015. 

Discussing the success of this year’s awards, Roy C Rowlands, business development director at RTM, said: “More than 130 individual organisations entered this year’s awards, bidding to win one of the accolades across the 23 wide-ranging categories. And with over 1,100 rail industry professionals in attendance, UKRIA 2017 was the most successful edition yet. 

“These awards just keep getting bigger and better each year. I’d like to say a massive well done to all the winners and those who were shortlisted for awards; your work is truly transforming the country. I can’t wait for UKRIA 2018!” 

Entries will be opening soon for the 2018 Awards – visit: www.ukria.com for updates.

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