The Sleeper's Blog

11.11.16

Resounding call for supply chain certainty at TransCityRail

Supply chain engagement and the future of Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) were the key topics of debate at yesterday’s TransCityRail North conference and networking dinner.

With more than 600 delegates in attendance for the black-tie dinner at the Principal Hotel in Manchester, Transport for the North’s (TfN’s) chief executive, David Brown, delivered the opening keynote address.

Speaking to a room packed full of rail entrepreneurs and executives, Brown stated that the key thing most of the supply chain wants is certainty around the short term, medium term and how this fits in with a long-term ambitious plan.

“This is because that allows them to recruit people, upskill people and invest in their businesses,” he said. “If we can get what we [at TfN] are doing right, it will help them.”

He added that NPR options will be whittled down by December, with more formal plans expected by the end of next year. Asked by the evening’s host, BBC transport correspondent Richard Westcott, whether NPR needed to prioritised over HS2, Brown, the former head of Merseytravel who has been in his new post for just over a year, argued NPR makes the HS2 business case even stronger: “It’s not one or the other.”

He added that the one thing he wants to see going forward is that the government maintains its commitment to delivering NPR across the north, from Liverpool to Hull and Newcastle. This point was reiterated by Alex Hynes, MD at Northern Rail, who added that the supply chain needs to articulate to central government the cost of not having a long-term plan.

As part of a six-man Q&A panel, Brown and Hynes were joined by Mike Hulme, managing director at Alstom Trains, Chris Montgomery, director of northern programmes at Network Rail, and Duncan Sutherland, non-executive director at HS2 Ltd.

panel2

A floor question asked about the lack of double-decker trains in the UK, but Network Rail’s Montgomery said there were enough problems with getting clearance for electrification. “The sheer cost would mean we’d have to rebuild all bridges and tunnels,” he argued.

Both Hulme and Montgomery added that Digital Railway will provide greater integration opportunities and the ability to improve capacity issues.

The lively Q&A session covered a number of areas from workforce diversity and the need to get more women in rail, through to the need to doing future development during the franchise so operators can hit the ground running.

Hynes reiterated his call from last year’s dinner for greater foreign investment in UK rail, and noted that Arriva Group “are stewards of a strategic national asset”, not just a “franchise holder”. He added that by 2020, with the addition of new rolling stock, Northern will have increased its peak capacity by 37%, which he argues will be truly transformational.

Before the end of the evening, the panellists were also asked about their opinion on Brexit, with HS2’s Sutherland saying that it provides a significant opportunity to make the procurement in major infrastructure projects more efficient. He also told delegates to expect an “imminent” announcement on HS2’s phase 2 route.

NPR Conference

Yesterday also played host to the inaugural NPR Conference, supported by Network Rail and TfN, which was attended by more than 200 industry delegates.

Speakers at the event included Andy Haynes, contracts & procurement director of route services at Network Rail, who discussed the move towards devolved routes and what this will mean for the supply chain.

Network Rail’s Montgomery gave a brief canter through his portfolio of work, but also noted that in general projects must now, more than ever, keep within their cost budget or risk getting pushed.

The RSSB’s Chris Lawrence gave delegates an exclusive sneak peek at the upcoming Capability and Delivery Plan, and Ian Brogan, bid manager at Thornton and Lowe, discussed the importance of having numerical evidence to ensure bid wins with Network Rail.

The supply chain audience also heard about the future opportunities of Digital Railway, and the importance of early supply chain engagement around this project.

Full coverage of the TransCityRail North Dinner and the NPR Conference will appear in the December/January edition of RTM.

To view the images from the event head over to the TransCityRail Image Gallery or click here.

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