In May I attended Railtex 2019, the UK’s largest and leading exhibition of railway equipment, systems and services. Over 400 exhibitors from 22 countries were in attendance, with attendees ranging from total railway systems, major rolling stock companies and signalling suppliers, to the smallest specialised components.
It is a fascinating time to be in rail, with noticeable changes having taken place since the last Railtex exhibition, which took place two years ago. Most significantly for the industry:
The sector has just entered Control Period (CP6) five-year funding cycle for rail infrastructure worth £48 billion
Network Rail is becoming increasingly devolved to a regional model
We have a number of major projects at various stages of development – Crossrail, HS2, TransPennine Route Upgrade, Northern Powerhouse Rail, East West Rail and Crossrail 2, to name a few
The rail industry strategic vision and Government targets to decarbonise and digitalise the network is shaping a modern renaissance in the industry
CP6, which started on 1st April 2019, marks a crucial turning point for the industry and the perfect time to come together with its supply chain both Tier 1s and 2s as well as SMEs to discuss the challenges facing the industry.
Industry and Government are committed to improving the productivity and competitiveness of the UK rail sector by transforming a railway network that is safe, reliable, efficient and fit to support growing passenger numbers. Technological advancements form a key aspect of fulfilling the strategy and at the exhibition, many examples of this 'digital' expansion was in evidence from Condition Monitoring Systems (both for track and Rolling Stock), Signalling, Safety Systems, such as Barrier Crossing sensors, and on mobile track safety equipment and were de rigour, as we countdown to digital rail.
It was particularly positive to hear sector advocates Gordon Wakeford, Chair of the Rail Supply Group and Managing Director for Siemens Mobility UK as well as Anna DelVecchio, Commercial Account Director for Amey and Rail Sector Deal Co Lead, discuss the Rail Sector Deal and how it could benefit businesses right across industry. This includes a commitment to supporting SME development and new entrants into the rail market by driving innovation through procurement.
Many businesses are already taking advantage of the opportunities. It was fantastic to speak to the Rail Alliance and hear about some of the collaborative R&D projects taking place at their new home, The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at the University of Birmingham.
There is a particular emphasis on the use of technology to reap the benefits from the emerging trends in automation, intelligent mobility, and mobility as a service.