The Rail Forum Annual Conference on 11 October was a roaring success with a staggering 400 delegates in attendance. The Conference saw a host of high calibre speakers addressing the theme of ‘delivering a better, simpler railway’, with inclusivity, innovation, sustainability and collaboration at the forefront.
Featured at the conference was a keynote address from new Rail Minister, Kevin Foster MP – his first official engagement with the rail industry and its supply chain.
The Rail Minister stated that his two priorities are customers and communities and pledged to focus on these as government and the industry create a rail network which stands for reliability and sustainability.
Rail Minister Kevin Foster said: “I was delighted to have been able to speak at the Rail Forum Annual Conference and meet so many members of the supply chain and hear about their commitment to our railways.
“As Rail Minister, I promise to focus on the two Cs: customers and communities, and help deliver a railway that is reliable and sustainable for all.”
The conference incorporated a total of 24 speakers and panellists, in addition to Rail Forum Chair, Will Rogers and Vice Chairs, Simon Higgens and Michelle Craven-Faulkner who facilitated the sessions. The range of speakers and topics were specifically designed to be representative and inclusive of the whole Rail Forum membership.
It was apparent from the presentations and panellist discussions that the industry has a great future ahead and that inclusivity, innovation, sustainability, and collaboration are essential to delivering a better, simpler railway.
Inclusivity – A session was dedicated to ‘Inclusivity for a Better, Simpler Railway: Why is Inclusivity Important?’ Chaired by Neil Robertson, CEO at NSAR, a panel of industry colleagues and audience members shared their views on what inclusivity means to them. The thought-provoking session was powerful and made clear that inclusion impacts and is about everyone, with progress still to be made in the rail industry. We all have an important role to play towards building an inclusive railway and ensuring everyone can feel confident to be themselves and ‘bring their whole self to work’.
Innovation – A repeated theme was that constant innovation is needed to reduce costs, improve passenger experience and address challenges of decarbonisation. Continuous innovation, along with collaboration between industry, the supply chain, academia and government are needed to offer viable solutions to industry challenges, decarbonise the railway to meet net-zero targets and build an integrated and efficient railway.
Sustainability – Weaved throughout the presentations was the theme of sustainability and the importance of achieving financial and environmental sustainability in rail. Speakers demonstrated that companies are embracing the government’s net-zero challenge and are approaching projects with the climate in mind; with cleaner construction and innovation playing a significant role. In regard to financial sustainability, Rufus Boyd, Programme Director at GBRTT commented in his presentation that the private sector will be front and centre of GBR’s mission to restore the railways to financial sustainability.
Collaboration – Many presenters commented on the benefits of collaboration with some citing specific examples, including two joint ‘case studies’. The value and benefit of collaboration between TOC’s, ROSCO’s, infrastructure managers, the supply chain, government, academia and wider stakeholders is clear and it is important that companies actively embrace opportunities to work together.
Elaine Clark, CEO at Rail Forum, said: “We were delighted to welcome so many of our members to our Annual Conference. The atmosphere and vibe in the room was great and the sessions provoked a lot of conversation with lots of networking. The broad range of speakers seemed to appeal to everyone and we are confident that all our attendees could take something positive away from the day. Thank you to all the speakers and also our event partners and sponsors – we’re already planning for next year!”