March 2024 Roundup

Posted: 8 April 2024 | | No comments yet

March 2024 has been a busy month for the Global Railway Review team, read our roundup to hear about events, visits and much more!

march 2024

March has been a busy month for the Global Railway Review team, as we have attended several events and undertaken numerous projects.

Readers should tune in to listen to our podcast with Daisy Chapman-Chamberlain, where we discussed the state of the rail workforce, training schemes, and how the industry can retain their trained professionals. As well as focusing on the different routes into rail, we discussed the role of personal development projects, including how the rail sector can ensure that there is a career opportunity or path for everyone at all stages.

Our weekly interview series, ‘Off the Rails’, has featured key figures from the rail industry, including Austrade’s David Fisken, Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner, GBRTT’s Emily Lightowler and Worldline’s Martin Howell. Each of these interviews covers the professional’s individual route into rail, skills they believe to be integral, trend predictions for the year and their wisdom for the rail sector. An article series worth reading for anyone interested in joining or developing their professional career in rail, as well as for the varying perspectives from the sector around the world.

Global Railway Review were also delighted to attend several events, hearing from key voices in the industry and viewing the new technology that could revolutionise the rail sector.

Read below to find out about Rail Forum’s Canada in Rail event, Transport Ticketing Global 2024, Bentley Systems’ HQ opening, RIA’s Innovation Conference and our GCRE site visit.

Canada in Rail

I had the pleasure of attending Rail Forum’s ‘Canada Rail Briefing’, which included speakers from the Department for Business and Trade, in Derby. It was a fantastic morning to afternoon session, consisting of a presentation portion, before a Q and A with the speakers.

At Global Railway Review, we try and cover all geographical locations for our publications, including news, articles, podcasts, and webinars. I therefore jumped at the opportunity to attend an event with a focus on the rail industry in Canada.

Here, I learned that nearly ¾ of Canadians live in one of Canada’s largest metro areas, with more than 90% of new immigrants settling in a major city between 2016 and 2019. Likewise, Canada has set an immigration target of 500,000 per year by 2025 and could welcome 18.1 million people (6.5% annual growth) over the next fifty years, mostly settling around these cities.

Obviously, such a growing population, with its steady increase predicted each year, will need to be provided by sufficient transport infrastructure. There are currently several projects occurring throughout each province. These include the Cascadia High Speed Rail project, funded with 42 billion US dollars, or the Calgary High Speed project in Alberta, with 9 billion Canadian dollars. There are already several rail infrastructure or route development projects across the country.

However, the Department for Business and Trade were keen to share that there were numerous opportunities for investment in the region. They delivered three key points of advice:

  • Learn the culture – for any company looking to expand into the region of Canada, learning the business practices will go a long way.
  • Research the workforce – DBT advised researching possible visas, as well as employment of the local community.
  • Base yourself in Canada – DBT pressed that being based in Canada or having an office/centre in the region would be beneficial for local business ventures.

Transport Ticketing Global 2024

I also attended the Transport Ticketing Global 2024 event, held in Kensington Olympia. Here, I was able to see different technologies for ticket barriers, while also hearing discussions about the changing role of the passenger.

Customer-focused inclusivity was the main message of the event – how can we make rail and the transport sector more attractive to the consumer?

Here, I interviewed two key industry figures, Thales’ Etienne Catte and Worldline’s Martin Howell. View Martin’s interview here and look out for Etienne’s interview on our website in the coming weeks.

Bentley Systems’ London HQ Opening

The GRR team were delighted to be invited to the grand-opening of Bentley Systems’ new Head Quarters in London. The event began with sessions of though-leadership into the future of digital twins as a tool both in the planning and maintenance of rail systems.

Following this was networking with a stunning view of London, complete with a presentation of the state-of-the-art interactive digital-twin experience centre.

Bentley was also joined at the event by representatives from engineering and construction company, Laing O’Rouke, which discussed their work on the new Everton football stadium in Liverpool; Network Rail, which discussed their use of digital tools to enhance operational efficiency and reliability across the asset lifecycle; and Balfour Beatty VINCI, a joint venture between two leaders in infrastructure delivery, which discussed their work on HS2. 

RIA Innovation Conference 2024

The GRR editorial team were able to attend RIA’s Innovation Conference in Newport, Wales, at the end of March. The first day kicked off with a series of keynote speakers, including Darren Caplan, RIA’s Chief Executive.

While providing his overview of the year, celebrating the work of the rail supplier associations, Darren was keen to impress the importance of investing in rail. A long-term plan, which would attract investment in the UK rail industry, was called for, which would include the implementation of AI sources.

Digital resources were not the only topic of conversation, however. The collaboration between different sectors was a theme that characterised the conference. Attendees heard from representatives from National Highways, the Met Office and Uber, learning not only about the importance of intermodality, and what that might mean for the customer, but also various practices to possibly adopt or trial in the rail sector.

A key aspect of the conference though was the launching of RIA’s whitepaper. Innovation Director Milda Manomaityte gave a summary of the report, which called for an overhaul of the UK rail ticketing system. Readers should watch out for our interview with Milda on an upcoming podcast, where we discuss the findings of the report and how such changes could be implemented for customer accessibility and ease.

The interactive aspects of the conference that followed the keynote presentations were the pinnacle of the event. RIA carefully sectioned the ICC for different experiences, allowing guests to see a variety of innovative tech in action.

The robot dogs were, for me, a highlight. Belvoir Rail’s design will allow safer practices for those employed in rail maintenance, in keeping with Network Rail’s ‘Boots off the Ballast” policy, minimising risk and danger to its employees.

Universities were also able to exhibit at the conference, showcasing their new research as well as their exciting training schemes. On Day 2, delegates were joined by students interested in the rail sector, or engineering at large. They were able to witness the different roles in rail and how their skill set would be beneficial to the sector. RIA’s open invitation gave students the opportunity to see the rail sector and how it is moving forward in the future.

Those interested in seeing the highlights from the conference should head to the RIA website, or read Darren Caplan’s ‘Off the Rails’ interview, where I caught up with him after his welcome address!

GCRE Site Visit

Elizabeth and I were lucky enough to then visit the new Global Centre for Rail Excellence site, in the Brecon Beacons, Wales. Not only were we overwhelmed by the raw natural beauty of the landscape, but we received a warm welcome from the GCRE team, Rob Forde and Andy Doherty. Along with Arjen Zoeteman, Peter Boom, Simon Fletcher, and Taron Smart, we were shown the site in Land Rovers, gauging its size and scale.

Rob Forde has provided numerous references for comparison for the size of the site – Disneyland and Gibraltar being the main two. We were able to see where the two interlinking tracks will be joined, the site where a hotel will be built, as well as a conference/learning zone location.

Once opened, the GCRE will be the only infrastructure testing site in Europe, allowing engineering companies to create certain scenarios in the UK, complete with the typical British weather conditions!

The site is due to open in 2027, hopefully GRR will be able to visit again!

Looking Ahead

The month of April has several key dates to keep an eye on. Our latest ‘Track Insight’ report, focused on digitalisation in the industry, will be released. Read thought leadership pieces, authored by Network Rail’s Rob Ellison, Dimitri van Zantvliet, Canada Rail’s Subhadip Kumar, GCRE’s Rob Forde and many more!

Our traditional summer print issue is also published later this month, featuring a wealth of knowledge on bogies and wheelsets, Marco Corradini’s essay on protecting railway assets, an expert opinion column from Matej Zakonjšek, the Director of the Permanent Secretariat of the European Transport Community, and numerous more insights – be sure to subscribe.

On the 10th of April, tune in to Global Railway Review’s editorial webinar, debating whether we’re ready for mag-stripe zero, how can ticketing be more accessible as well as more sustainable. Our panelists include the Director of Virgin Trains Ticketing, Mark Plowright and Product Director for UK & Ireland at Vix Technology Sue Walnut.

Likewise, our monthly podcast, ‘The Right Track’ is back on the 15th of April, listen out to hear a different expert provide their insight on the rail industry.