Rail Industry Focus

10.06.15

Railtex 2015

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 15

Adam Hewitt, David Stevenson and Sam McCaffrey look back at the rail event of the year.

More than 10,000 people helped make this year’s Railtex at the Birmingham NEC a massive success, including 2,700 exhibitors from 468 companies, and nearly 7,400 visitors.

Organisers Mack Brooks said it was “the biggest and busiest of these events for more than a decade”, and the RTM team had a very busy time on our own stand at the show.

There is coverage from the show through this edition, including on pages 8, 30-32 and 46-47.

Highlights from the show

Saleem Mohammed, Network Rail electrification director, discussed how through the Knowledge Hub Network Rail is attempting to co-ordinate its relationship better with the supply chain.

“It is an engagement tool and that is where we are taking Knowledge Share in Network Rail,” he said, “where we are starting to develop products to engage with the industry.

“One of the things we have set up with the Railway Industry Alliance is REDG – the Railway Electrification Delivery Group – and we hold a meeting every period to engage with the supply chain and everyone is more than welcome to join that. But we do need to make this more effective.”

Garrandale used the show to launch a corporate restructure and rebrand, and announced the appointment of a new director as well as a new contract with Southern Railways. The Derby-based firm, which also works in the engineering, chemical and innovation sectors, showed off a new logo featuring a large metallic G encompassing a second smaller metallic G. Garrandale Group CEO Malcolm Prentice said: “What the rebranding is really about is pulling all our talents together. The big G in the Garrandale is saying that all these disciplines come together in one company.”

He also announced that “his friend”, Colin Walton, the former chair of Bombardier UK and the Railway Industry Association, would be joining the board as a non-executive director.

Walton said: “Garrandale is a dynamic organisation with great prospects and I am very excited at this opportunity to play a part in the company’s future.”

LB Foster, which recently acquired the TEW Group, was showcasing its Protector IV Trackside friction management system, and its next generation Traction Gel Applicator 3 Cabinet.

During a platform discussion on achieving sustainable performance, Cal Bailey, director at NG Bailey, said that his definition of sustainability is conventional: people, planet, profit. “From a people point of view safety is paramount for everybody in the rail industry. But the training is where we are getting that wrong at the moment,” he said. “We don’t have enough people who work in the industry who are competent at the moment.

“We’ve always believed that employing people is the best way to get work done and we’ve trained some 5,000 apprentices since the 1960s. The situation is that there is a lot of investment but people are leaving faster than they are joining. It is unsustainable.”

Huge growth

Chris Kinchin-Smith, new chair of the IMechE Railway Division, added that the reasons why there has been an emerging skills challenge in this country are well-known, but what isn’t so well-known is that it is most acute in traction and rolling stock. “Statistics for the next two years have just been updated by NSARE and of the 14,000 people who work in maintenance in construction and rolling stock, some 40% are over the age of 50 and some 22% are over-55,” he said. “Even worse than that, only 1% are qualified engineers under the age of 25. We are simply not recruiting anything like enough to keep on-track with impending retirements. Furthermore, we have got a huge growth in the industry with infrastructure projects and rolling stock manufacture.”

Kinchin-Smith added that the Rail Division has set up a Skills Taskforce to work with others, in particular with NSARE, and are working on a number of initiatives one of which is looking at technicians in the rail sector and how they can be professionalised.

“They are, actually, the single largest group that we believe with new technology and greater versatility is going to be required,” he said. “We need to welcome them much more into the institutions than in the past.”

Keith Jordan, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, said the rail industry has progressed and improved in recent years, but must do more to deliver greater value. He said that, fundamentally, the industry is here to transport people and products around the world safely, cost-effectively and comfortably. “Trains and track are only a part of that system; they are the enablers of that system,” he noted. “We are under pressure to be more competitive. We are not seen as good value by most governments or good value for money by passengers. We are responding to that, but we must do more.”

He called for a whole-system approach to railway engineering. “A train won’t move without assistance – without the track and signalling – and that is what I mean by the whole system. We are all part of it,” he said. “With a ‘One System’ approach I think we can grow and not shrink; increase efficiency, cut costs and reduce the duplication of effort. We can also increase value for money.”

Asked what has been a barrier to this, Jordan, who has worked for 30 years in rail, said historically it was competition. “Everybody was scared about sharing knowledge and products and giving information away,” he explained. “When I joined it was a very combative approach to everything you did. The major players, for instance, didn’t care about SMEs.

“However, I think we’ve grown out of that now and become more mature as an industry and businesses. Now we are talking much more with each other. We know when to stop talking and not share secrets. But there is a much more open dialogue throughout the industry.

“We can’t all provide the one answer. Sometimes we can provide a better answer by working together and I think we are much more open now. We still need to do more of this.

Many of the major rolling stock manufacturers were showing off concept trains for HS2, including Hitachi Rail Europe (see pages 34-35).

Specifications

David Polhill, senior rolling stock engineer at ATOC, spoke about the EuroSpec partnership that looks at providing voluntary common technical specifications, as an explicit set of requirements, for rolling stock components such as toilets, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) and sliding steps to be used as support for purchasing or refurbishing rolling stock.

He told the audience at the Knowledge Hub that so far four specifications have been published, on air conditioning, documentation, requirement management and toilets.

The specifications seek to eliminate common problems such as draughty air-con, freezing and smelly toilets. They also look to standardise common features on trains, such as pantograph connections and closing and locking mechanisms on disabled toilets.

The specifications have been used in some tenders in the Netherlands and all four are available for free on the EuroSpec website.

The Railtex Awards also returned this year and were a big success – full results and coverage on the RTM website.

The RTM team is now looking ahead to Infrarail 2016, which is being held at the ExCeL from 12-14 April. Our exhaustive show guide will appear in our February/March 2016 edition.

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