Industry and government join to bolster rail growth

The Rail Supply Group (RSG) yesterday launched its strategy to build growth in the UK rail industry and support exports.

During an event at the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre (AMTC) in Coventry – hosted by Business Secretary Sajid Javid, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and managing director of Alstom UK & Ireland Terence Watson, the RSG presented its detailed plan to improve productivity and secure the future of the UK railway.

The strategy supports suppliers of all sizes by improving the conditions across the supply chain, setting out the RSG’s plan to implement its Productivity Pledge, which commits the rail supply sector to deliver:

  • A strategic approach to procurement and planning
  • A clear plan to drive world-class UK technologies
  • A coherent skills plan to attract the best talent and increase productivity
  • A comprehensive package of support for SMEs
  • A fresh, co-ordinated approach to increase exports and inward investment

Business Secretary and co-chair of the RSG, Sajid Javid commented: “The UK was a rail industry pioneer and this strategy will ensure we are global leaders for years to come.

“A strong rail sector supply chain is essential for our future productivity and the commitment to take on 20,000 new apprentices will provide opportunities for our young people to start successful careers in this vital sector.”

Transport Secretary and also co-chair of the RSG, Patrick McLoughlin added: “We are funding the biggest rail modernisation programme since Victorian times which is creating opportunities for UK suppliers across the country.

“We support the rail industry’s plans to strengthen our supply chain so British companies can win more work here and abroad.

The RSG brings together private sector leaders from large and small businesses across the rail industry with government. The rail sector generates £3.4bn for the UK economy each year and its supply chain directly employs more than 124,000 people, with many more employed in the rail sector as a whole.

“Rail Supply Group’s focus on developing a skilled rail workforce is very welcome. Our priority is to attract the nation’s talent to the industry and to equip them with the skills to deliver on our commitment to build a world class transport infrastructure system.”

RSG co-chair, Alstom’s Terence Watson said: “The opportunities in the rail industry right now and into the foreseeable future are vast, with HS2 on the way, as well as other much needed investments in upgrades, signalling and electrification.

“But just to build these projects and then pack up at the end would miss the point. As an industry we must use them to kick-start a new wave of UK manufacturing and exporting prowess, maximising the benefit to UK PLC.

“That’s why we are pledging today to work together to double the industry’s export volumes, drive economic growth and create thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships across the country.”

The RSG’s sector strategy sets out the group’s plan to:

  • Improve market conditions for the rail supply sector by securing greater visibility of planned investments with government and improving procurement approaches
  • Accelerate the uptake of innovation in the supply chain by promoting effective collaboration between clients and suppliers and improving the UK’s capacity for testing and research
  • Invest in people and skills, including developing a network of training centres, an industry talent pool and incentivising training through revised procurement approaches
  • Grow exports and inward investment by working closely with government to improve access to foreign markets, clients and investors, as well as supporting smaller suppliers to export

RSG has committed to working closely with the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together Network Rail and passenger and freight operating companies, to coordinate progress in the rail industry as a whole.

Rail journeys have doubled in the past 20 years to around 3.2bn  a year and significant future growth in freight and passenger traffic is expected, enhanced by major infrastructure works such as HS2, Crossrail and London Underground upgrades.

The RSG’s strategy will support the sector to take advantage of positive trends in the global rail market, with global growth expected to be 2.7% a year, reaching £128bn by 2019.

This comes as government has committed to spend over £38bn to maintain and improve the UK rail network by 2019 in the biggest modernisation programme for more than a century.

RSG will review its strategy every three years and will work with a full range of groups to make sure it remains relevant for a growing industry.