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RIA’s Rail Fellowship Programme returns with first physical visit since Coronavirus

7 May 2021

  • RIA’s Rail Fellowship Programme is back with physical visits, marking the end of the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on this vital showcasing of the sector
  • The visit saw Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Transport Sarah Olney MP visit key London depot in Willesden Junction
  • Sarah Olney MP met workers at the depot, which was recently taken over as part of Alstom’s purchase of Bombardier

On Friday, the Railway Industry Association (RIA) demonstrated that the rail industry is getting back to normality, through its leading engagement programme, the Rail Fellowship Programme.

Coronavirus has led to physical tours being put on hold, but the first in-person visit held since the pandemic provided the perfect opportunity for rail suppliers to demonstrate the continuation of their great work during this challenging period. In recent years, the RIA Rail Fellowship Programme has become a staple for industry, organising MPs and Parliamentarians to visit local sites. This gives decision makers first-hand knowledge of the day-to-day work that goes on in rail supply.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Transport, and Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney, became the inaugural member of the 2021 RIA Rail Fellowship, and other MPs are already signed up to take part in visits in the coming months.

Figure 1: From left to right – Max Sugarman (RIA), Sarah Olney MP, Kate Marjoribanks (Arriva Rail London), Peter Keighron (Alstom)

Upon arrival, Sarah Olney was introduced to representatives from RIA, Alstom and London Overground operator Arriva Rail London, before being led on a socially distant guided tour of the depot, meeting London Overground operator Arriva Rail London, depot workers and witnessing the work going on on-site to keep London Overground services moving. The tour was followed by a discussion of the challenges facing the rail industry, the impact of Coronavirus, and the progress of Alstom’s new growing business, following the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation

Max Sugarman, Public Affairs & PR Director at the Railway Industry Association, said:
“The railway industry has worked incredibly hard to continue to deliver for our country throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, keeping the UK moving and ensuring production lines continued during this difficult time.

“By relaunching the RIA Rail Fellowship Programme, we have the chance to thank rail businesses on the ground and showcase their work to MPs and decision makers, highlighting just how vital the UK rail sector is to the country.

“Thank you to Sarah Olney for being the inaugural member of the RIA Rail Fellowship, Class of 2021, and for championing rail, which really is valuable to all of us who work in the sector.”

Will Tanner, Communications Director, Alstom UK & Ireland, said: “Our depots have worked hard throughout the pandemic doing their bit to keep the country moving, while keeping our own people safe. We are delighted to welcome Sarah Olney to Willesden and very pleased to be part of the RIA’s excellent fellowship programme.”

Sarah Olney MP, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson, said: “I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to visit Willesden Junction depot and see first-hand the work being undertaken to help transform public transportation and boost sustainability.

“I believe it is imperative that as we rebuild our society post-pandemic and rethink the public transport we use, we embrace our environmental obligations and explore ways of drastically reducing harmful emissions.”
Notes to Editors


  1. Safety remains RIA’s top priority and all visits will continue to follow strict Covid-safe guidelines. Social distancing will be enforced, and visitors must wear appropriate PPE.

  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. RIA has 300+ 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 vital industry for the UK’s economic recovery, supporting green investment and jobs in towns and communities across the UK. 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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