Looking for routes into the Permanent Way

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Full-scale demonstrations of equipment at an upcoming rail exhibition will help smaller companies break into this sector, which is seeing a large degree of activity

The organisers of a two day event taking place this week believe smaller suppliers often have good ideas but don’t know how to get them into industry.

The National Track Plant Exhibition, taking place at Long Marston, Stratford-upon-Avon, 24-25 July, will give those smaller companies the opportunity to find out how to fully engage with a section of the rail industry undergoing a large degree of modernisation and renewal.

Only last week the department for transport confirmed a £1.2bn order for new East Coast Mainline trains.

The Class 800 series trains will be built by Hitachi Rail Europe in County Durham, securing 730 positions for future Hitachi employees and for the British supply chain.

June’s spending review saw an additional commitment to HS2, the UK’s second high-speed rail network, with £42.6bn in funding for construction costs and £7.5bn for rolling stock.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin believes 19,000 engineering and construction positions will be created by HS2 from 2017, with over 2,000 apprentices employed in construction related positions alone.

The Department for Transport (DfT) believes this will be five times more the apprentices that will work on Crossrail, a project very much underway in London that will link the east and west of the capital, with first services running from 2015.

Due to be fully operational by 2019, Crossrail will serve 37 stations and run 72 miles from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore, long tunnels below central London, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

Transport for London recently announced that Arriva Crossrail, Keolis/Go Ahead, MTR Corporation (Crossrail), and National Express Group have been shortlisted to run Crossrail services that are expected to carry 200 million passengers a year.

Around 97 per cent of the total number of Crossrail contracts have been awarded to UK companies, which Crossrail believes has helped to add around £42bn to the economy. McLoughlin wants to see this kind of momentum taken forward into HS2, which last week launched its consultation for phase two of routes beyond Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council believes confirmation of routes and stations would bring immediate benefits as they will trigger investment and development.

Speaking last week he said, ‘We’ve said all along that HS2 is not just a transport project, it’s an economic growth project. The extra capacity HS2 brings is far more important than the speed and this capacity will be a real engine of growth for the country.’

If HS2 goes ahead it will link 18 cities from 2033. In the interim, the very real work of maintaining the UK’s rail infrastructure continues with Network Rail reporting £4.4bn worth of projects to improve and expand the railway, with over 200 bridges renewed or rebuilt and 940 miles of track replaced.

This brings us back to the National Track Plant Exhibition, which will bring track renewal to life with live large-scale demonstrations that will require all attendees to don personal protective equipment.

In publicity material Steve Featherstone, Network Rail’s programme director, track, said ‘We’re bringing in big, rail-mounted kit, which will allow our suppliers to stage large-scale demonstrations, such as live track renewals. In addition, AmeyCOLAS will be performing a live re-ballasting renewal.

Babcock International Group will also be co-ordinating an on-site renewal of 320 yards of track, using innovative equipment, methodologies and processes from a range of industry suppliers.

The event, attended by senior track managers, suppliers and Network Rail’s acceptance team, is open to all in the rail industry who are interested in track delivery.

Small suppliers are encouraged to attend to get the inside track on turning their ideas into tangible business.

Do you have a question you’d like to put to the experts behind the High Speed Two (HS2) rail link? Click here to submit your question to The Engineer Q&A.

Rail update:
On Wednesday July 24, 2013, the Court of Appeal rejected all legal challenges to HS2, whilst on Thursday July 25 Transport for London and the DfT, sponsors of Crossrail, confirmed that Crossrail services will call at Woolwich following the conclusion of a funding agreement for the completion of the station.