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20 Feb 2017

High speed rail – delivery of professional services to the high speed rail industry


Top table dinner with the National College for High Speed Rail – 24 January 2017

Top 10 key issues discussed

The overall topic for the dinner was how professional services providers can play their part in delivering the ambitions of HS2 in the creation and delivery of skills for the future of high speed rail.

The National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR) is keen to secure support from ‘Professional Service’ organisations. It wants to develop a curriculum which will appeal to a broad spectrum of organisations and offer useful development opportunities. The representatives from NCHSR were particularly interested in hearing about the content and structure of possible courses which would deliver skills which the professional services industry needs – and how organisations in the room may be able to work with the college to help develop and shape the future of the college and the delivery of courses.


  1. Support for the work of the college
    There was a genuine interest in the work of the college across the attendees at the dinner and support for what the college is trying to achieve. Indeed, many attendees thought that the college has the potential to be attractive to the wider rail industry – not just "high speed". Many attendees followed up by requesting additional information and pledging their support for the future of the NCHSR – be that by way of providing course attendees, by presenting on selected topics or otherwise.

  2. Course content - a broad understanding
    Many of the organisations in the room recruit at degree level – so one of the key benefits of the NCHSR could be to provide industry-specific knowledge as part of wider training programmes. If this is the case, the level of teaching would need to be at "MA" or "MSc" level. Attendees felt that they would benefit from a broad understanding of the railways industry as a whole and supported a module covering a wide range of subjects from across the railways industry at a relatively high level. This could also benefit those with relevant skillsets from other industries to attract them into rail. This would provide the professional service sector with an understanding of the key drivers and issues across the industry, whilst not becoming too technical in nature. 

  3. Qualifications – desirable, but not necessary
    Whilst qualifications and "something to put on the CV" are helpful, professional services professionals will usually already be highly qualified in their field. For those people, it was not felt that a specific qualification would be required. The ability to use course credits towards a greater qualification may be useful – as would a recognition of the courses by professional bodies (such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority). This will assist in the fulfilment of continued professional development requirements.

  4. Practical skills for a "real life" industry
    Attendees were keen on the NCHSR delivering people who could offer real practical benefits to their organisations straight away. It should shy away from being an academic institute turning out academics. Developing practical skills will be essential so that people can hit the ground running.

  5. Networking benefits
    A key message was how the NCHSR could provide networking benefits for professional service organisations. There was an acknowledged benefit to more junior members of staff attending courses alongside the future managers of the industry, but also a request for more senior attendees to be able to network with the higher echelons of the railways industry – perhaps on presenting joint courses. 

  6. Flexibility of course timings
    Whilst it was acknowledged by everyone in the room that an intensive course would be suitable for students starting out in the industry as school leavers or perhaps as part of a university degree, a more flexible approach would be needed for professional services organisations – perhaps with remote learning (with online content) or attending a course once a month. There could also be benefits in team "away days" at the college. 

  7. What can the Professional Services Industry gain from the college?
    The attendees at the dinner felt that attendance at the college from them, their employees and others within their organisations should enable them to gain a greater understanding of how the railway works from a commercial and operational perspective. This will help them to do their job better and advise their clients in the context of their industry. Meeting people at all levels would also be of benefit: the college offers a unique opportunity for people to meet and share ideas with others that they may need to work with in the future. 

  8. What can the students at the NCHSR gain from the Professional Services Industry?
    A key output from the college should be students and graduates who are attractive to both the railways industry, but also to professional services organisations looking to employ those people going forwards. Many of the organisations present at the dinner also expressed an interest in creating and presenting course context to the students so that they could be involved in training "future business leaders" who are familiar with legal, financial, commercial and technical issues and can be the intelligent clients of the future. 

  9. How does it all fit together?
    There were some questions around how the NCHSR and other initiatives across the rail industry fit together. There were questions around the name of the college and whether it needs the term "High Speed" within its title as this could be naturally limiting to what the college can achieve. There are plenty of opportunities in the industry in the near future – the "Digital Railway" project being a great example of where the NCHSR could be at the forefront. 

  10. Professional Services as teachers and mentors
    A number of attendees expressed an interest in sharing their skills and experiences with students at the college, which could be as a teacher on the course, presenting on a transaction they have been involved in or even mentoring students into their careers.


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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