Track and signalling


Half a billion pounds of plant and equipment at Rail Live 2014

Thousands of visitors saw innovation in action – and half a billion pounds worth of plant and equipment on display – at the first Rail Live event this week.

The two-day Network Rail event, which finished yesterday, builds on the success of last year’s National Track Plant Exhibition, also held at Long Marston in Warwickshire, but with an enhanced scope including signalling, asset management and electrification technology, rather than just track plant.

Rail Live was “twice the size” of last year's event, according to Network Rail track director Steve Featherstone, who was closely involved in organising both.


Because the site is connected to the rail network, companies could show off even the very largest plant and equipment, from cranes and excavators to Kirow piling trains and Colas Rail’s new ‘Super’ Class 60 locos, one of which was named at the show for the charity it’s supporting, CLIC Sargent. A cheque for £15,000 was handed over, but the total amount raised is likely to be many times this figure.

There was also a very busy programme of talks and speeches, including transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, National Supply Chain director Nick Elliott, Pete Waterman, National Electrification Programme director Saleem Mohammad, FutureRailway director David Clarke, and programme director for signalling, Mark Southwell.

Robbie Burns, regional director for Wales and Western, also spoke, as did Steve Naybour of the Track Partnership collaboration between Balfour Beatty and London Underground. Simon Scott, who is leading major changes to Network Rail’s product approvals system, updated the audience on what that will mean for suppliers and designers.

‘A real statement of intent’

Steve Featherstone (below) said Rail Live had its genesis in an event held “in the car park” at Network Rail’s Westwood facility about five years ago, which has grown every year. He called Rail Live “a real statement of intent about the industry’s confidence and ambition”.


His excitement shone through as he discussed some of the kit he’d been looking at, from rail saws and RRVs to the flexible train arrival point system which is allowing the High Output Track Renewal System ‘factory train’ to do up to an extra 100m of renewals a night.

That system, which won approval in principle from two RSSB committees earlier this year, is based on the simple concept of stopping the train where the team wants to work, then taking the possession around it, saving 10-20 minutes a shift.

In his speech and subsequent interview with RTM, Featherstone discussed record-breaking renewals achievements in Wessex, the reorganisation of track by specialism instead of geography, the problems with plant reliability, and the insourcing of the high output team. Full coverage in the next edition of RTM.

Patrick McLoughlin’s address

The event was treated as a live railway site, so all visitors had to wear full PPE for the duration – including McLoughlin, who joked that it was the first time he had addressed an audience all wearing orange, while kitted out in PPE himself.

McLoughlin reflected that it had been 25 years since he was appointed as a junior transport minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government, at which time rail was certainly not a priority. How things have changed, he said, with record passenger numbers and investment, and a commitment to rail across the political spectrum.


He praised the industry for its success at Dawlish, and discussed the franchise extension deal with Virgin on the West Coast Main Line and the possibility of new direct London services from Shrewsbury and Blackpool. But the lack of capacity that’s forcing Virgin to convert first class carriages to standard will keep getting worse, he said, hence the need for HS2.

In an interview after his speech, RTM asked how the government could help the rail supply chain, and McLoughlin told us: “We can see innovation happening. I went to a small company, Collis Engineering in Alfreton, which is a smallish engineering company, but they produce something which will save us a lot of money as far as railway technology is concerned. It’s now been taken on by Network Rail.

"This [event] enables companies to come here but it also enables Network Rail to go round and see what companies are suggesting. If there are areas [of interest] – because Network Rail is a major buyer of infrastructure equipment – then they can actually challenge engineers, challenge companies and say ‘we don’t like that, but if you come up with something else, it might actually be very useful for us’. It’s a great showcase.

“The Rail Supply Group shows that we are as a government looking very seriously at how we can maximise this, so that people aren’t there by themselves, that they’re part of a larger structure that they can feed into.”


A ‘Rail Strategy’

FutureRailway director David Clarke also addressed the Rail Supply Group in his talk, noting that in the UK, only 10% of the supply chain’s value comes from exports, versus 50% in Germany. But by ‘de-risking novelty’ and ensuring vital if high-risk technologies can be developed, exports can be grown enormously, he suggested.

A ‘Rail Strategy’ to match the very successful one in the automotive industry is what’s needed he said, and he wants to see one in place a year from now.

There will be more on Clarke’s fascinating speech on innovation, and an interview with him, in the next edition of RTM.

Of the scores of people RTM talked to at the show, feedback was almost universally positive, apart from a few gripes about the layout of the giant site and its distance from the car park.

Clyde Schwartz, operations manager of the AmeyColas JV, said: “There’s been some really good innovation on show, both in terms of technology and safety, and we’ve had lots of interest at our own stand.”

Marc Bews of Tecton Ltd, who was showcasing the company’s ‘Liberator’ range of CCTV recorders, said it was “definitely different from the shows we normally do”, but a big success.

Mark Potts, rail plant manager at SPL Powerlines UK, said: “It’s a real benefit that it’s a live site where we can bring kit in by rail and put it on display, it makes it much more direct. It’s gone well so far and we’ve had good interest.”


Lorraine Beattie of Metabo, a power tools company, said it was her first time at a Network Rail plant show, but said it was set up for visitors really well, and added: “It’s very apparent that health and safety is at the forefront of everything going on here. It’s really varied, and not restricted in terms of what’s on show.”

Damen Ward, rail manager for Scotland at Selectequip Ltd, said the company had got about 90 leads by Thursday morning, proving how useful the show had been. The company, showcasing the Nighsearcher portable light and safety signage, said it had been a “fantastic” event.

RTM was an exhibitor at Rail Live 2014, interacting with countless readers, advertisers and friends of the magazine, and letting people know more about the upcoming High Speed 2 The Northern Hub Dinner, the UK Rail Industry Awards 2015, and the UK Rail Industry Training Trust.

Full coverage of Rail Live, including pictures, will be in the next edition of RTM. Subscribe here:

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Www.Cat-Surveys.Com   20/06/2014 at 12:45

This event was amazing, we were amazed how large it was. It was great to meet with new people in the industry, along with catching up with our regulars. The Rail Live show proved to be very useful for us and I believe for many others too. Thank you for the good read!

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