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Innovation the major issue on a busy Day One at Infrarail

Innovative presentations, high visitor numbers and a positive outlook for the UK rail industry were just some of the highlights during the opening day at Infrarail.

Minister for transport Baroness Kramer opened the event, and gave a keynote speech, saying that it was “great to see breakthrough thinking and innovation at so many stands throughout the exhibition”.

She also noted that there is a major commitment in terms of funding for infrastructure projects and developing skills in order to support the industry going forward. However, the Lib Dem peer added that one of the keys to delivering a world-beating rail industry is getting the right people on board and developing their skills.

Jeremy Candfield, director general of the Railway Industry Association, said: “With more than 200 exhibitors here at Infrarail and more than 40 for CITE, we are highlighting the best of our innovative industry.”

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In the exhibition hall at Earl’s Court a number of key demonstrations, including On Track Displays, featuring products from BCM GRC Ltd, Tata Steel and Rosehill Rail, provided visitors with the chance to see the latest machinery and technological developments.

Seminars addressed key issues such as electrification, collaboration and sustainability. Mark Bullock, managing director of Balfour Beatty Rail, stated that there is a shift in the rail industry to developing more collaborative relationships across key infrastructure projects, citing Crossrail, Track Partnership and the National Electrification Programme (NEP) as important examples.

With regards to collaborative working, Bullock added: “CP5 is an exciting time for the industry with £38bn being invested into the network. During this time we need to improve the safety and reliability on the railway for our customers and workforce, while delivering value for money. Greater partnerships in the supply chain highlighting best practice lessons, driving innovation and developing training can help us achieve this.”

Looking at the issue of sustainability, a panel of four experts identified a number of areas where improvements can be made in the industry. Shaun McCarthy OBE, director at Action Sustainability, revealed that the rail industry is starting to develop an understanding of sustainability policies, but noted that many still do not know what they want from sustainability.

He advised that developing measurable metrics is one way to know if sustainability policies are being delivered and that they should be embedded into organisations just as importantly as cost and quality objectives.

Liane Hartley, director of Mend London, agreed that there were areas for improvement. However, she also noted that Crossrail has raised the game with regards to social sustainability in rail, which has been delivered by creating more jobs, apprenticeships and pursuing ethical sourcing.

As well as the social aspects, the panel added that there can be environmental benefits too. And in the seminar that followed Roger Dickinson, regional director of infrastructure projects, southern Network Rail, hailed the eco-benefits of electrification.

He stated that the NEP during CP5 will reduce carbon emissions with many of the new trains on the network being developed with enhanced specifications.

Dickinson was also confident that the ambition to have 51% of the network electrified by 2019 was achievable, while delivering a safe electric spine up and down the country.

Graeme Shaw, head of Northern Line Extension at London Underground, was also confident that the new Northern Line extension, which would involve building new stations at Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station, is at a critical stage during the procurement process.  He hopes that the contract award could be announced by mid-to-late July providing the secretary of state makes a decision on the inspector’s report about the line extension.

Shaw was confident that main site activity may begin by Jan 2015 with a full train service running by 2020. RTM will be at Infrarail for the next two days. To get updates from the show follow @rtmnews on Twitter. 

Full coverage of the show in our June/July 2014 edition.


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