Passengers in a rail station

RIA Conference Day 3 – This industry is alive, vibrant & growing

The final day of the RIA Conference 2020 began with a panel discussion surrounding rebooting exports for the UK.

Louis Taylor, Chief Executive, UK Export Finance spoke of products UKEF has to offer such as buyer finance, exporter guarantees and insurance.

Shanker Singham, CEO, Competere said he, “doesn't see any problems with the UK-EU agreement”, there is a landing zone on key disputes and that Northern Ireland Protocol could be an obstacle.

Jake Rudham, Marketing Director, Unipart Rail and Interim RSG Exports & Investment Industry Champion, explained that exports are not easy but getting into new markets can offer huge opportunities for UK rail.

Kaspars Briskens, Head of Strategy & Development, Rail Baltica, who joined live from Latvia, said that UK rail plays a vital role for international development, especially on sustainability & multi-modal integration.

Simon Argyle, Counsellor, Competitiveness, Connectivity and Innovation for UK Mission to the EU spoke of the future EU agenda, highlighting the role of France, upcoming German elections, MFF difficulties & Covid-19. He urged the need to work together with industry to address challenges.

Steve Butcher, Executive General Manager & CEO, Rail Business Group and John Holland, who joined live from Australia, described a positive picture of the state of the domestic rail industry there.

Last but not least was Lucy Prior, Business Engagement Director at 3Squared, and Vice-Chair for RIA SME-Group. She pushed for SMEs to use information available through Government channels and the importance of preparation to make the most of exports.

The final panel discussion was all about skills, opportunity and inclusion.

The session began with Kate Jennings, Policy Director at RIA, and Adeline Ginn MBE, Founder and Chair of Women in Rail, highlighting the launch of the ‘Equality Diversity & Inclusion Charter' for the railway industry, a partnership between the two organisations.

The Charter is a commitment to work collaboratively across the sector to promote diversity and equal opportunity in UK rail.

Adeline began the discussion by highlighting the importance of listening to people's concerns and showing diverse role models in our industry, "It's about working openly and together."

George Chilcott, Chairman of Young Rail Professionals, said their work focuses on showcasing young role models and the range of opportunities in the rail sector.

Andrew McLean, Assistant Director & Head Curator at National Railway Museum said: "We are about the future of railways not just about the past." He described the wide range of people who have contributed to rail over the course of its history.

Farah Sajwani, Assistant Project Manager at CPMS Group, said there is much more to do to educate young people about the opportunities involved across rail.

“We need to get away from the perception that the only role in rail is a train driver” said Florence Eshalomi AM, Member of Parliament for Vauxhall. She also asked the question of how do we tap into the young people that are so switched on with social media or young people that are interested in the sustainability side?

Professor Clive Roberts, Professor of Railway Systems, University of Birmingham stated that, “in the coming decades we will need to see a skills shift” as we look to the future and the exciting roles in rail that will be needed.

The final speaker of the event was Chief Executive of Network Rail, Andrew Haines.

He began by stating that, “we’re going to have to fight for those passengers to come back” in relation to public transport being “demonised” over the past 9 months.

On reversing Beeching cuts, Andrew said he thinks some of the schemes can happen but hopes they don't all happen, as that wouldn’t be cost effective. He also added that we are likely to have, "a fistful of those delivered before the next election."

Has the agenda to address decarbonisation & environmental impact slipped? To this Andrew says, "No not at all."

There is lots of work being done to make our railways more resilient to more extreme weather conditions.

Andrew also described the hard work being done by Network Rail's R&D team & the need to remove barriers to new product entry onto the market.

He was also asked what is he most proud of over the last twelve months? He said: “The way that we as a system in April and May, by August this year we recovered all our COVID-19 work and that’s down to the quality of the supply chain.”

And to conclude, in relation to what will change in the next twelve months, he said he hopes that, “despite the economic challenges we will have a settlement from government to allow us to engage with the supply chain. And that the industry knows deep down this is an organisation that does what it says it’s going to.”

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