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Infrarail draws to a close after bustling three days of innovation-sharing

This year’s edition of Infrarail has drawn to a close after three bustling days of activity, including keynote speeches from high-profile industry leaders, a varied programme of technical seminars, major project updates and plenty of networking between buyers and suppliers.

Taking place at the massive ExCeL London from 1-3 May, the event attracted thousands of professionals to see for themselves the innovative products and services that are currently being developed across the sector, as well as discuss market opportunities.

Delegates also had a chance to speak directly to rail industry heavyweights, including transport secretary Chris Grayling – who kicked off the string of keynotes with a jam-packed speech on Tuesday morning – and Digital Railway boss David Waboso.

As well as the usual mix of new and old suppliers, who all showcased their products under one roof, this year’s event featured interesting talks from professionals hailing from outside the industry.

For example, Ken Munro, a self-described ethical hacker and a security entrepreneur at Pen Test Partners, attracted a full house during a Knowledge Hub discussion on how poor digital resilience can have catastrophic consequences for the rail industry. To exemplify this, he shared his experiences in ‘ethically hacking’ into wi-fi infrastructures to detect the security flaws of current systems. Some operators, for example, offer unencrypted wi-fi with no segregation between passengers, staff and the wider network, thus accidentally allowing hackers to access credit card information, CCTV footage and even intercept the messages shared by crew across the network.

This year’s Infrarail was also majorly centred on the importance of innovation, with suppliers keen to showcase fresh solutions to longstanding industry problems. Speaking on the first day, Waboso himself admitted that even with the advance of digital railway technology, we won’t achieve much if we try to undertake the programme “in the same way we’ve always done things.”

Rounding off the last day were Railway Industry Association boss Darren Caplan and Rail Delivery Group CEO Paul Plummer, named as the two keynote speakers for the day. In his speech, Caplan outlined the political issues facing rail over the coming months and years, which he boiled down to funding; Brexit; the industrial strategy; maintaining support for major projects; and the government decarbonisation agenda.

He also reiterated the importance of reforming the funding system to stop the usual ‘boom and bust’ of every control period, thus smoothing out peaks and troughs of money and allowing suppliers to forward-plan investment with confidence.

Soon after, Plummer took to the stage to close off the string of keynotes by outlining his organisation’s ambition to bring together all parts of the industry to confront issues, challenge the status quo and enable change.

After a successful three days, Infrarail will be followed by Railtex next year, which will take place at NEC Birmingham on 14-16 May.

(Top image c. Railway Industry Association, Twitter)


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