Rail Minister calls for digital skills and diversity in rail industry at Railtex 2019

15 May 2019

The Rail Minister, Andrew Jones MP, attended Railtex today (Wednesday 15th May) at Birmingham’s NEC, delivering a keynote speech at the RIA Future Focus Conference calling for more digital skills and workforce diversity in the rail industry.

The Minister said the rail industry has a requirement for 50,000 new workers by 2033 to replace retiring workers and to adapt to changes in technology.

“The shape of transport has dramatically changed by digital disruptors. Rail travel is part of a single journey paid for on a mobile phone through a single platform that allows passengers to seamlessly travel from one mode of transport to another.” He said.

He added: “If the industry is to continue to thrive it needs to become more nimble and ready to quickly respond to these changes. It’s a world in which the expertise of suppliers will play an increasingly important role and one that holds a wealth of opportunities.”

The Minister also addressed topics including the ‘boom and bust’ model of funding and how to smooth out the process for supply chain companies, as well as the need to address the lack of a visible enhancements pipeline. He also addressed the environmental impact of diesel trains, amongst other topics, in a lively Q & A.

Following the keynote address the Rail Minister was taken for a guided tour of the exhibition, meeting representatives from a range of organisations including British Steel, EAO Ltd, Garrandale Rail, Hitachi and Knorr-Bremse, amongst others, discussing the latest product innovations and developments on show across the three days and how they can be utilised on the UK’s railways.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, accompanied the Minister on the tour of exhibitors at Railtex. He said: “It was great to show the Minister the fantastic products and services the rail supply industry has to offer. From 3D printing to new digital information services, the Minister could see that the rail industry is providing benefits and innovations to UK plc every day.

“It was also good to hear at the RIA Future Focus Conference the Minister addressing rail funding concerns. We clearly need to see ‘boom and bust’ smoothed out in the future, and for the DfT to provide a visible pipeline for enhancement projects in CP6. But we are heartened that the Minister is clearly committed to addressing these issues.”

Notes to Editors
  1.  About Railtex: Railtex is the essential showcase for products and services for the all sectors of the rail market in the UK. The show is held biennially and has successfully served this market for more than 25 years. It is organised by Mack Brooks Exhibitions (www.mackbrooks.com), which also runs the Infrarail series of railway infrastructure technology shows. Outside the UK, the company’s regular rail industry exhibitions include SIFER in France and EXPO Ferroviaria in Italy, as well as Exporail India.
  2. About RIA: The Railway Industry Association (RIA) is the voice of the UK rail supply community. We help to grow a sustainable, high-performing, railway supply industry, and to export UK rail expertise and products. We promote and represent our members’ interests to policy makers, clients and other stakeholders in the UK and overseas. RIA has 280+ companies in membership in a sector that contributes £36 billion in economic growth and £11 billion in tax revenue each year, as well as employing 600,000 people—more than the workforce of Birmingham. It is also a growing industry with the number of rail journeys expected to double over the next 25 years and freight set to grow significantly too. RIA’s membership is active across the whole of railway supply, covering a diverse range of products and services and including both multi-national companies and SMEs (60% by number). RIA works to promote the importance of the rail system to UK plc, to help export UK expertise around the globe and to share best practice and innovation across the industry.

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