article

Q&A with Rail Forum’s Elaine Clark: Challenges in rail

Posted: 5 June 2023 | | No comments yet

During Railtex 2023, Elaine Clark, CEO at Rail Forum, spoke to Global Railway Review about some of the biggest challenges currently facing the rail industry.

Commuters at Paddington station blurred with slow shutter speed, with all logos removed and all faces blurred beyond recognition.

Can you give us an overview of what Rail Forum are doing at Railtex?

At Railtex 2023, as in previous ones, we have a joint stand for some of our smaller members to share because it’s a cost-effective way of being able to exhibit. For them, it would be incredibly expensive otherwise. The other benefit of the shared stand is we get quite a lot of footfall because people come to see one company, then they see another company and it attracts more people in. Visitors also come to see us which drives footfall.

What would you say are some of the biggest challenges facing the rail industry right now?

In terms of biggest challenges, we’ve got quite a hiatus of work in some parts of the industry. We feel like we’re in a waiting game, waiting for the new Great British Railways to be established and take the industry forward as per the reform agenda from the government. But I think the biggest challenge is getting that momentum in terms of procurement pipeline for both infrastructure and rolling stock and getting that reform agenda moving properly rather than just talking about it.

How are Rail Forum dealing with these challenges?

We meet regularly with our members to understand their challenges, help to make contacts for them, help to make sure that they’re aware of what’s happening and that they’re really positioning themselves as best they can for the future. 

We meet regularly with our members to understand their challenges, help to make contacts for them, help to make sure that they’re aware of what’s happening and that they’re really positioning themselves as best they can for the future. Essentially, we meet members regularly to understand what’s happening in their world. We also meet with the UK Government regularly as well. We meet with the Department for Transport and Department for Business and Trade every couple of weeks. We’re feeding in issues, ideas and constructive thoughts around how we can work together to move things forward. Similarly, we also meet with ministers and shadow ministers to make sure that they understand the challenges and opportunities because they don’t necessarily always see things from our members perspectives.

What are some of the major opportunities that you see in the rail industry right now?

In terms of opportunities, I think it is that flip side of what I just mentioned. If we can get the reform agenda really moving to free up that pipeline, I know that we’ve got companies in the supply chain that have developed better solutions and better ways of working to deliver more value than perhaps they’ve been able to do in the past.

I think there’s also a lot of opportunity around the way we use data. We seem to collect a lot of data, but we don’t always share it sensibly and make maximum benefit from it, and all of that is about getting best value. For several years, it feels like everything has been very much driven by cost. We really need to start talking about value. That’s not just value pound note terms, it’s value in terms of UK manufacturing, it’s value in terms of the decarbonisation agenda. So, there are lots of opportunities there, it’s just how we measure it.

What positive trends are you seeing at Railtex?

I think Railtex has been quite busy. Most of the people that I’ve been talking to have new technology developments that they’re bringing along. Touchless technology where in the past you had a button to press, you can now wave your hand at something and it miraculously works. There’s lots of newer technology, certainly new to rail. Again, around data, use of data, smart systems, interconnected systems, continue the trends we’re seeing.

Elaine Clark - Rail ForumElaine Clark became Rail Forum General Manager in 2016, she took up the new position of CEO in March 2019 and became a member of the Rail Supply Group Council in March 2021. Elaine leads the Rail Forum team and is responsible for ensuring they are delivering a strong value proposition across their range of membership activities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.