HomeGovernmentRIA's Parliamentary reception strikes a positive note

RIA’s Parliamentary reception strikes a positive note

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Nevertheless, more needs to be done. RIA is campaigning to ensure the implementation of rail reforms and for the publication of the Rail National Enhancement Plan (RNEP) which was last updated over 1,000 days ago. RIA also had no doubt that HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) needed to be built in full and that a rolling programme of electrification is required to meet the net-zero target.

Shadow Rail Minister Tan Dhesi stressed that there cannot be managed decline as rail recovers from the pandemic. He felt that as rail businesses need the certainty of a pipeline of work, it is unacceptable for RNEP not to have been updated since October 2019. He noted that the ORR considered that over 400km of track per year needs to be electrified to meet rail’s net-zero target. Missing this target would be unacceptable especially as European neighbours have far more electrification than the UK.

He advised that a Labour government would have a rolling electrification programme and that his party is committed to building NPR and HS2, including its eastern leg, in full. He felt this was the best way to maximise the economic potential east of the Pennines. Declaring a conflict of interest as MP for Slough, he also felt it important that a western rail link to Heathrow should be built.

The new Chair of Transport Select Committee Iain Stewart mentioned that his passion for transport had been ignited by watching the line ahead through the glass screens of Glasgow’s blue trains. He acknowledged the issues raised by previous speakers and advised that these would be considered by his committee. Indeed, the next day he was to question his predecessor, Rail Minister Huw Merriman, and wondered if he should ask him “If you were still in my chair, what question would you be asking?”

He believed that as well as investigating problems, his committee had a role to look ahead. In this respect he announced the launch of a new inquiry to consider ‘Our future transport’ for which individuals and companies are invited to submit ideas. Those on the shortlist will then be invited to pitch their ideas to the committee at a Dragon’s Den style hearing.

Rail Minister Huw Merriman reassured Iain that he was doing a good job and set out his priorities. These were: i) settle the industrial disputes and see the agreed productivity measures introduced; ii) implement rail reforms on which he is to make a keynote speech on 7 February; iii) publish RNEP, he agreed that it is pretty shocking that it had not been updated for over 1,000 days; iv) oversee HS2 which he felt was a fantastic project offering decarbonisation benefits, although costs had to be kept under control; and v) drive train operators performance improvements which will also be good for freight.

He felt there had been far too many promises recently for which there was no funding and felt that it was essential that we are honest about what we can and cannot do.

Like all other speakers he thanked those present, in particular RIA for the great work it does for the industry.

The reception also hosted the Rail Fellowship Programme awards ceremony which recognises the contribution of the 2022-23 class of politicians who have taken part in the programme. This sees MPs visit rail suppliers for a ‘hands-on’ experience of what is being done to run the network. MPs given awards at this ceremony included Grant Shapps, Ed Miliband, and Tan Dhesi.

David Shirres BSc CEng MIMechE DEM
David Shirres BSc CEng MIMechE DEMhttp://therailengineer.com

Rolling stock, depots, Scottish and Russian railways

David Shirres joined British Rail in 1968 as a scholarship student and graduated in Mechanical Engineering from Sussex University. He has also been awarded a Diploma in Engineering Management by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

His roles in British Rail included Maintenance Assistant at Slade Green, Depot Engineer at Haymarket, Scottish DM&EE Training Engineer and ScotRail Safety Systems Manager.

In 1975, he took a three-year break as a volunteer to manage an irrigation project in Bangladesh.

He retired from Network Rail in 2009 after a 37-year railway career. At that time, he was working on the Airdrie to Bathgate project in a role that included the management of utilities and consents. Prior to that, his roles in the privatised railway included various quality, safety and environmental management posts.

David was appointed Editor of Rail Engineer in January 2017 and, since 2010, has written many articles for the magazine on a wide variety of topics including events in Scotland, rail innovation and Russian Railways. In 2013, the latter gave him an award for being its international journalist of the year.

He is also an active member of the IMechE’s Railway Division, having been Chair and Secretary of its Scottish Centre.


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