24 Mar 2017

Future railway


Top table dinner: Future railway with David Waboso – Wednesday 15 March 2017

Key Messages:

These are the key messages that we took away from David’s introductory remarks:

  • We are running out of capacity: old assets have not changed for over 150 years – if we are not going be building brand new railways across the whole of the country, we need to squeeze additional capacity out of the existing network
  • Cross industry project: this is not a Network Rail project. The Digital Railway team works across the industry and involves Network Rail, operators and the supply chain. The Digital Railway team has been engaged with all of the industry to determine the best way forwards.
  • We need to change the way people work: the Digital Railway project is essentially a change project and a people project first rather than an engineering project.
  • We need outputs, not inputs: the supply chain has been clear – they want to be told what it is that needs to be achieved, and then use their expertise and innovation to deliver the outcomes. 
  • Third party financing is needed: we need to find a way to bring external financing to the table and bring in people who can do that in a robust and simple way.
  • Bravery and tough leadership are essential: we also need to build and keep capability within the industry – give people projects on an on-going basis.

And here are the 11 key messages heard around the room:

  1. New trains: we need to ensure that all new trains ordered in future (and those recently ordered) have ETCS fitted as standard. We are missing an opportunity for a simpler factory fit rather than a retrofit option. 
  2. Timing of retrofit of ETCS needs to be clearer: there was some frustration that there are a number of FiC contracts for ETCS being fitted, with no idea of when the fleet roll out will take place. This could mean wasted time, effort and money. Some asked if we still need a FiC programme at all? Why not just fit a whole fleet?
  3. No silver bullet: there is no silver bullet to deliver the Digital Railway programme. There needs to be a mixed solution, looking at both conventional upgrades and digital upgrades to release capacity on existing networks.
  4. We need to be targeted in upgrades: There is no point delivering additional capacity in places where it is not going to be needed for another 20 years. There needs to be targeted interventions rather than a big bang; but the first results need to happen quickly to prove the concept and gain wider industry confidence.
  5. Alignment of incentives: a fragmented railway such as ours does not necessarily mean everyone is pulling in the same direction. The incentives need to be aligned and this needs to be reflected in track access arrangements as well as franchise arrangements and rolling stock leases. This will help with delivery. 
  6. We need to attract the “Google” generation to the industry: this needs to an industry wide initiative to present the industry in a better light, to make it clear what opportunities there are. Using apprenticeships and graduate schemes to attract the next generation.
  7. Pace of change needs to increase: we have been talking about Digital Railway and signalling for many years, but the progress is incredibly slow. There have been a number of options/variations of the programme and a decision should just be made, and acted upon.
  8. Financing of the Digital Railway: there are ultimately only two sources of financing for the railway – taxpayer and fare payer – and we need to decide how that split is going to work to pay for the Digital Railway. 
  9. The supply chain should be considered as “partners”: those partners value the interaction they are having with Network Rail and the Digital Railway team at present in developing plans and working out the best way to deliver.  This is the best way to have a joined up approach. 
  10. Change programme: the Digital Railway is change programme and hearts and minds need to be driving forward that change – not just the engineering.
  11. Third party financing: Consult with financial experts to create operating models rather than get Engineers to try and draw up contracts/models to make happen – It was questioned why did Network Rail commission Peter Hansford, former chief construction adviser to the government, to lead a review of alternative project delivery models rather than a Leader from the Investment / Legal/ Commercial community.


Tammy Samuel

Tammy Samuel
Partner and co head of rail

T:  +44 20 7809 2227 M:  +44 7766 991 053 Email Tammy | Vcard Office:  London

Suzanne Tarplee

Suzanne Tarplee
Partner and co head of rail

T:  +44 20 7809 2389 M:  +44 7718 247 220 Email Suzanne | Vcard Office:  London

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