First week on the job for our two new starters at RFM

Ben Higgens (Engagement Manager – Rail Infrastructure) 

What a fascinating, informative & diverse first week working for Rail Forum Midlands. A couple of trips into the Derby office & a day at the National Railway Museum meant a real mixture of working environments. Being in the office meant I could meet all the RFM team in person (other than Bob. who I met with virtually) as well as fellow new starter Sam. On Tuesday I travelled to the National Railway Museum in York for the Level Crossing Innovation Day 2021.

The event itself was great, exploring a plethora of innovations whilst understanding challenges & opportunities for level crossings. Thank you to RFM members Andy Little (Unipart Rail), Sharon Meek (Scott Parnell) & Tom Roberts (Signal House) for your time & detailed explanations about various innovations.

Being in Derby at the beginning of the week also meant I could have my first member visit to Structural Fabrications to meet with Suj Kang. Suj explained the challenges/opportunities and general operating environment that Structural Fabrications are experiencing currently, it was a fascinating overview of their capabilities.

The second half of the week largely focussed on all things export. On Thursday we attended the North America Export Networking event. This informal networking event gave me the chance to listen to members speak with industry contacts and peers about the USA and Canadian market.

Friday carried on the export theme, in the morning Sam and I were able to chat with Bill Smith & Marion Doherty from the Department for International Trade. Both Bill & Marion explained what an ITA is & how they work, what support services are available for exporters & an overview of the resources available. Shortly after, I had an opportunity to talk with Malcolm Woodall from UK Export Finance. Malcolm talked me through what UK Export Finance is & how it is managed.

The week concluded meeting Gavin Panter from Resonate. This was an area of the industry that was completely new to me, so I thoroughly enjoyed learning all about the design & development of digital railway and traffic management solutions. I thank everybody for their time with me this week, it is most appreciated. I look forward to an equally busy & informative next week. I hope to see most of you in person at the RFM Annual Conference on the 20th October, please come over & say hello!


Sam Pardoe (Communications and Membership Support Co-ordinator)

My first week as part of the Rail Forum team is over, and it has absolutely flown by. I have learnt so much more about rail in the past four days than I had in my previous 22 years. It is fascinating seeing all the moving parts work together to create the working mechanism of the rail industry.

I have been introduced to everything that the communications department at Rail Forum offers to our members; from the two weekly newsletters, to the online exhibitions, to the upcoming in person events.

I have met most of the team here at the Rail Forum and a few members during an online event or through a meeting on Microsoft Teams, and I think it is safe to say that everyone I have met has been very helpful and made me feel very welcome.

During the week I have helped out on many tasks, including the writing of the events newsletter, as well as a few posts for the Rail Forum website. I have met Ben, who has also joined this week, and although he has a few more years’ experience, it was nice to chat and learn from someone who is also at the beginning of their career.

On the Thursday I attended an online event with the team on North American Export, and I was fortunate enough to be able to sit and listen to experts in the industry talk about the past and the future of international trade to and from both the UK and North America.

In just over one week it is the Annual Conference followed by Dinner at the Roundhouse. I am excited to meet many of our members and hear from all the speakers during the day. I am slightly nervous looking towards these events but based on the friendly encounters with everyone I have met so far, I imagine these nerves will disappear when I take my seat.

I feel as though I have learnt so much already in such a short amount of time, yet I have barely dipped my toes in the water, and I am looking forward to finding out more.

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