Rail jobs, staff issues and training

29.01.19

A quick backwards glance, then looking forwards

Source: RTM Dec/Jan 19

Neil Robertson, chief executive of NSAR, takes a shot at making some predictions for rail’s fate in 2019.

I was asked to make some rail predictions in the first week in January 2018. They were:

  • Prediction 1: Rail infrastructure business plans will have to do more to show how they will drive efficiency by reducing wage inflation due to skills shortages and increasing investment;
  • Prediction 2: A Brexit deal which reduces migration is likely, so strenuous efforts will be made to retain the EU skilled workers we already have, and the industry will seek to get its higher-level skills centrally on a revised highly-skilled migrant programme;
  • Prediction 3: Relatively steady as she goes politically (Theresa May and Chris Grayling will survive the year), but with a lighter touch (no money, no legislation). Will the private sector fill the vacuum? Or will the unions?

What a year! Like no other. What happened in respect of these?

  1. Efficiency and productivity have certainly moved up the agenda. Not as much as I hoped, but the ORR has started to show an interest in more robust economic regulation. The issue is gaining momentum, with the question now being, ‘what do I do about it?’
  2. The deal! I was right – there is a deal – but I didn’t expect it would only have 36% support. If we knew the answer to this, we could make a fortune shorting the right shares. I still say it’s 60% likely that a deal will go through;
  3. Perhaps most interestingly, this was also correct. Sadly, the vacuum was filled with questions of industry capability and also some political points about nationalisation. Who could have predicted that it would be Labour’s most popular policy? They have really struck a nerve with disappointed passengers.

And this year? I’m barely going to mention Brexit because we are all bored of it, other than to say our research shows the Europeans have started to go home, so the industry prediction that we lose 10% of our staff over time looks right. Wage inflation is also increasing in key areas. The new immigration proposals went further than many expected. As I write, the slightly more likely scenario is a deal, with no deal and referendum behind that – but still prospects, terrifyingly.

Industry capability will be high up the agenda, with training, partnership, open data, and third-party involvement all likely to feature. NSAR will work with industry to specifically look at the training aspect.

The shape of the industry is for the Williams Review. I anticipate some reasonably profound changes, with common economic incentives across route and TOC. We have developed some tests that can be used to see whether new proposals fit with our research around productivity, the need for investment in skills and kit, and the longer-term view that is needed. If you would like to see these, please get in touch.

We were delighted that a Rail Sector Deal was announced before Christmas – this will help move us forward on digital, skills, data, wider capability, and export. Basically, disrupting ourselves before someone else does. Watch this space.

Lastly, our recent symposium in Birmingham considered the skills needed in the future and how training will change with new technology (training is being disrupted faster than some other sectors). It’s great to see Network Rail Training preparing for this new world. 

The phrase ‘Dutch courage’ is said to come from the fact that only Dutch sailors would enter London during the plague, fortified of course with some strong spirit (Scottish football fans have followed this example for years.) You could be forgiven for feeling that you need a similar approach given politics, drones, etc. However, I think this year might turn out to be better for rail than many expect. See you in 2019.

 

Enjoying RTM? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Government’s role in new passenger-centric railway ‘will have to change’, says Williams Review lead

21/03/2019Government’s role in new passenger-centric railway ‘will have to change’, says Williams Review lead

The man leading the Williams Rail Review has warned that the government’s role in the UK railways “will have to change” as the ... more >
Government promises to look ‘very carefully’ at £218m bid for second Chelmsford station

21/03/2019Government promises to look ‘very carefully’ at £218m bid for second Chelmsford station

The government will look “very carefully” at a £218m funding bid for a new railway station in Chelmsford, Theresa May has said.... more >
Carillion-bound boss appointed to lead Kier

20/03/2019Carillion-bound boss appointed to lead Kier

Kier has appointed Andrew Davies as its new chief executive, two months after the building contractor ousted Hayden Mursell on the back of debt i... 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 sleeper's' daily blog

The West Midlands 30-year strategy

19/03/2019The West Midlands 30-year strategy

Malcolm Holmes, executive director of West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE), outlines the West Midlands Rail Investment Strategy 2018-2047. The West Midlands Rail Executive was formed three years ago to give local authorities a direct influence over the award of the region’s main rail franchise. Working with the Department for Transport, we set out our ambitions for more frequent services, more carriages, and better stations for the... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

comment

26-30 Railcard: taking advantage of opportunities

19/03/201926-30 Railcard: taking advantage of opportunities

After a nine-month national trial, the rail industry launched its seventh National Railcard for 26-30-year-olds on 2 January 2019. Rail Delivery ... more >
Caledonian Sleeper: a railway icon re-imagined

19/03/2019Caledonian Sleeper: a railway icon re-imagined

The world-renowned Caledonian Sleeper, due to begin operations at the end of spring 2019, completed its first Scotland to London journey earlier ... more >
East West Rail: the next steps

19/03/2019East West Rail: the next steps

In January, five route options for the central section of East West Rail were published as part of a public consultation on the next phase of the... more >
Rail's role in transit-orientated developments

19/03/2019Rail's role in transit-orientated developments

Jonathan Bray, director at the Urban Transport Group (UTG), argues that transit-oriented developments are the future – and that rail has a ... more >

rail industry focus

View all News

interviews

Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

12/03/2019Women in rail - is the industry on the right track?

RTM sits down with Samantha Smith, sole female member of the TransPennine Route Upgrade Alliance Leadership Team, to find out more about encourag... more >