Rail Renaissance

I had the pleasure of being in the audience to hear the Rail Minster speak at an event last week … and it genuinely was a pleasure, which to be honest, I wasn’t expecting. With the notable exception of the Secretary of State for Transport, I have rarely been impressed by a Government figure when talking about what needs to happen in the real, commercial world.

Claire Perry has been in post for three months and by her own admission, has ‘gone native’ quite quickly … perhaps most obviously evidenced by the model of The Mallard she has on display in her office.

Now this is something that I can personally relate to quite well – having started working with the Rail sector just about two years’ ago, I have recently been described by one the TOC MDs as being ‘evangelical’ about attracting the top talent to work with UK Rail … and about the opportunities that abound in our sector.

Claire isn’t the first person to use the phrase ‘renaissance’ of late either; I genuinely feel that the pace is gathering for a new ‘Rail Renaissance’ with comment from on high in relation to us looking back on this time in our history as one of the ‘golden ages of rail’.

Irrespective of which party is in power in Westminster, infrastructure spending can’t be turned on and off … investment in infrastructure is investment in growth, and economic growth is the key to a successful UK plc for the future. Ms Perry also noted that the North has been neglected for far too long in this respect and welcomed the work being done as part of the Northern Hub programme of work.

Another subject she covered which I am in complete agreement with is that we need to much more vocal about our achievements in the Rail Sector … whilst acknowledging that there are parts of the network where the passengers are just not feeling the love, there are plenty of things we do very well and we should be proud to talk about it.

There is much to learn from other industry sectors, and Claire acknowledged particularly that the private sector business model has been instrumental in the growth that we have seen in passenger numbers and operating methods in the Train Operating Companies.

Personally, I put great store in bringing in top talent from other industry sectors, to bring a fresh perspective to how we can make the railway more efficient, more customer focused and better able to offer more for less in terms of cost.

And a final quote from the Rail Minister and seconded by everyone in the room that day – ‘this is a fantastic time for our beloved railways’, let’s talk it up, let’s be proud of what we have achieved to date and let’s focus on bringing innovation in to our daily work rather than just wait for a franchise bid submission to bring out the creative thinking …