Engineering an integrated network – report from ICE Rail conference 2014

Victor Zasadzki, CIRIA Project Manager, provides an overview of the ICE Rail Conference 2014.

Last week, members of the CIRIA team attended the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Rail conference 2014 Engineering an integrated network at the ICE, One Great George Street.

The day was a resounding success with a fantastic line up of knowledgeable and experienced speakers. These experts were able to present, debate and discuss many of the issues regarding the challenges, opportunities, threats, risks and concerns which they all face. A full list of speakers is available here

Arising from presentations and panel discussions, as well as through conversations with other delegates, there were several themes, areas of thought and discussion throughout the day. These included:
 
Capacity
More rail and investment in rail means the availability to move more people around. This can include travel across, through or around cities, such as London’s Crossrsail project or Manchester’s Metrolink tram system developments. An increase in capacity is in everyone’s interest, as it will enable more seats, more trains, more space and ultimately, greater opportunity to travel further, more quickly and in comfort.

An example of this is the construction and development of HS2, which will not only allow people to get to Birmingham more quickly, but is also about building a new railway capable of moving more people and freight between London and Birmingham. This will aid industry, economy and trade. Birmingham, our second most populated city is entirely landlocked, and will benefit from new and increased connections throughout the UK, particularly with the recent construction of the UK’s largest port, the new DP World Megaport just on the edge of London.

Changing times
There seems to be a real sense that many industries such as telecoms, electronics, software and oil to name a few have, in the preceding decades, all had a time of immense change. This has not yet happened in the rail industry and we are on the cusp of this beginning.

Role of rail in the wider UK infrastructure
A more modern rail infrastructure with greater capacity will mean that more people can consider rail travel, freeing up space on the road networks. As a result, traffic times are decreased on roads, the maintenance of roads will become less frequent as road surfaces last longer, fewer pot holes will develop, and there will be cleaner air.

Economic role of the railway and exports
As other countries in the world invest in their rail networks, we as leaders in High Speed and advancing technologies in traditional rail can be once again at the forefront, as the UK once was. In doing so we can begin to export our skills, either through our engineers and knowledge in consultancy, design and best practice, or through the ability of our supply chain to build railway rolling stock and components. Hitachi’s recently opened UK factory illustrates the international confidence in the UK’s ability to build rolling stock. As the UK is also home to other manufactures it seems both our expertise and products are have the potential to form a significant part of the UK economy going forward.

Overall, the emerging themes of the day joined to highlight the important part that rail plays in the wider UK infrastructure. Investment, development and effective maintenance of the UK’s rail infrastructure will mean that the expanding population of the whole of the UK (not just London) is able to move itself around, as well as the resources, (food, materials, fuel etc) required to sustain life.

We were once seen to be the world powerhouse in the world of rail; this may be beginning of UK economy returning to that.