"There will be an increasing regard and concern for the environment and the footprint of any increases in capacity across the network. The rail industry should be able to respond by ensuring that we clean up the delivery of rail journeys, but also play an important part in keeping Britain moving."
There are big changes in the horizon for British rail, what with franchising, schedules, and rolling stocks all under intense scrutiny over recent years. The industry is hot on the path of modernisation and eco-sustainability, at the same time huge logistical reforms threaten to occur throughout England.
Amidst all that, we sat down with Sir Patrick McLoughlin, former Secretary of State for Transport under David Cameron and Theresa May and 2019's Lead Fellow for the Railway Industry Association's Fellowship Programme. Sir Patrick visited a Bombardier and Network Rail control center in Derby yesterday (Monday, 11/06/2019), and we discussed his visit as well as the importance of rail and what he sees as the most important developments in the industry over the next few years.
You have just been on a visit to Bombardier and the Network Rail Train Control Centre in Derby. Can you tell me a little bit about your visit?
I have indeed. I went as part of the Railway Industry Association’s (RIA) Rail Fellowship Programme, an initiative which gets MPs and Parliamentarians onto rail sites to showcase the work of Britain’s rail industry.
I had a great time experiencing the rail industry in action, and particularly enjoyed seeing Bombardier’s new Crossrail and London Overground trains up close, and even getting in the driving seat myself on the test track. I also enjoyed visiting Network Rail’s East Midlands Control Centre and going on a tour of the control room, where people were hard at work being the ears and eyes of the railway, and leading on contingency planning and issue resolution. Overall, it was a fascinating and useful day – and I’d recommend it to any other Parliamentarians looking to find out more about the rail industry.
What does the RIA Rail Fellowship Programme hope to achieve?
The RIA Rail Fellowship Programme is all about recognising the hard work that goes into making our rail industry a success. Rail is part of everyday life for so many people up and down the country, from morning commutes in rush hour to visiting family and friends. However, the public don’t often see the amount of work that goes into keeping our rail network running – and the great things that the rail supply chain provides in innovation, skills generation, and for international trade and exports.
Across the UK, rail generates £36 billion and £11 billion in tax revenue for the economy as well as employing some 600,000 people. It is important we remember the value of rail to UK companies and the hard work of those who work in rail, like the men and women I met in Derby.
What do you view as your role, being the Lead Fellow for the RIA Rail Fellowship, Class of 2019?
It is an honour to be this years’ Lead Fellow, and I am proud of the opportunity to be a figurehead for a sector I love. I am taking over the reigns from Lilian Greenwood, the 2018 Lead Fellow and Chair of the Transport Committee, who has also been a champion of the rail industry for many years (and is also, of course, a proud Midlands MP like me).
My role is to be the spokesperson for the whole RIA RailFellowship Class of 2019, regardless of party affiliation, and to celebrate industry on behalf of Parliament. I’d like to thank RIA for making me this year’s Lead Fellow and for running the programme for 2019. I hope it continues for many years.
What kind of developments do you foresee within the rail industry over the next decade?
There will be an increasing regard and concern for the environment and the footprint of any increases in capacity across the network. The rail industry should be able to respond by ensuring that we clean up the delivery of rail journeys, but also play an important part in keeping Britain moving.
What would you say are the biggest challenges facing the rail industry?
Adopting and supporting new technology, including making it easier for people to access tickets -- where there has been some progress. It's also important to deliver projects within budget, ensuring the increased capacity which will become available through HS2 -- the first new railway line being built from London to Birmingham, and then on to Leeds and Manchester -- which will radically change rail travel in the UK.
And your biggest professional challenge – what’s that been?
Arriving at the Department for Transport in September 2012 to be told that franchising was in a good place, to within a month having to pull the plug on one of the biggest franchises that had been awarded as a result of mistakes that had been made by the Department. There was also the job of having to make the case for HS2, which was always more about capacity than speed.
Finally, we like to ask people where in the world their favourite rail journey is – where is yours and why?
There are too many to mention. I cannot list all the numerous great stretches of track within this country, but to name but a few: when the train pulls into Durham and the Cathedral looms large, is just a magnificent site; the Settle to Carlisle line; within my own constituency, the beautiful Derwent Valley Line from Matlock to Derby, which welcomes thousands of tourists every year; and finally the line from Sheffield to Manchester offers some spectacular scenery.
To find out more about the latest industry developments that are affecting projects like Crossrail and HS2, meet us at SmartMetro Madrid, on November 25-27th.