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Associated with excellence
05/09/2008 | Channel:
Contracts, Station Development, New Products & Services, Business Improvement, Franchises, Skills & Training, Security, Health & Safety, Freight, Rolling Stock, Infrastructure
The Railway Industry Association is at the forefront of progressing the interests of UK rail suppliers
The Railway Industry Association (RIA) is the trade association for UK-based suppliers of equipment and services to the worldwide industry. Its member companies are active across a diverse range of railway supply and represent the vast majority of the UK railway supply industry by turnover.
“RIA is a long-established trade association for the railway supply industry, having expanded from its original steam locomotive builder base 130 years ago to cover most parts of the supply industry,” explains director general Jeremy Candfield, who has led the association since 1998. “We have more than 140 member companies, including manufacturers, maintainers, contractors, consultants, rolling stock leasing companies and specialist service providers. Our activities include lobbying on behalf of the industry with the government, regulators and principal customers such as Network Rail, as well as involvement in technical standards at both British and European levels.
“We work closely with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) to promote overseas trade and receive a large number of international delegations keen to see the UK railway industry.”
The benefits of being part of RIA are countless, as Jeremy reveals: “Advantages for both large and small companies include access to direct information services and numerous opportunities for discussing key issues and networking in specialist groups. Members participate in our regular business surveys, while our main aim is to look after their interests by continuing to get all parts of the industry working together to make it, as a whole, more efficient.”
Speaking to Railway Strategies about the Association's recent work and the condition of the railway supply sector at present, Jeremy says: “We've successfully created a wide range of special interest groups, where members with related interests can get together in discussion with other key players in the industry. These range from technical groups dealing with specific systems through to general business areas such as consultancy, training and skills. We recently carried out one of our business surveys of members, which showed increased optimism across all sectors of the supply industry. Enormous investment is being put into the railway system and order books were reported as above average for the first time in six years. Generally, the position is positive but there are still some serious concerns.”
To help address some of these issues, RIA is aiming for Network Rail (NR) and suppliers to work together in genuine partnership. Commenting on how this can be achieved and the ensuing benefits, Jeremy states: “We're encouraging the industry supply chain as a whole to work together in partnership via our Value Improvement Programme (VIP) initiative. VIP seeks to embed, through facilitated workshops, the VIP Code of Practice. The purpose is to achieve improved supply chain performance and efficiency by improving the culture and behaviour between supply chain partners. The workshops are currently concentrating on NR/RIA supplier relationships although there have also been rolling-stock based workshops. The intention is to spread the VIP message throughout the entire industry supply chain.”
Continuing, he adds: “Network Rail is rolling out a supply chain charter, which is totally consistent with the VIP principles, and we're working closely with them in this.” In 2007 the Rail Industry Skills Forum (RISF) was set up to ensure that the rail
industry maintains the skills it needs, and will help direct the Rail Safety and Standards Board research and development programme in workforce development, which is funded by the Department for Transport (DfT).
Jeremy identifies the industry stakeholders that are joining together to provide strategic advice on future skills requirements, and outlines the forum's remit: “Chaired by Network Rail's HR director Peter Bennett, RISF includes representatives from the Association of Train Operating Companies, London Underground, Network Rail, the Rail Freight Group and RIA, along with the Department for Transport, Go-Skills, the Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance and the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB).
“RISF was created to take an holistic view of the industry's skills framework and ensure that its many parts develop the necessary skills to deliver the future railway system. It will be looking to take forward some of the recommendations from the forthcoming TfL/DfT/LDA-sponsored Project Brunel report, which we expect to identify skills gaps in the transport area generally.
“RIA is also working with Network Rail to produce a defined set of essential and optional competencies, and means of assessing those competencies, among staff engaged in overhead line construction. We're doing so to raise the attractiveness of the sector to staff and improve the effectiveness of the work carried out. Our recent business survey of RIA members revealed that most companies in all sectors are experiencing skills shortages that, if not addressed, will constrain delivery. Individual companies are recruiting and RISF will also have an important role in taking this work forward on a pan-industry basis.”
Besides these skills shortages, a significant challenge faced by suppliers in the rail industry is the increase in materials and energy costs. As Jeremy explains: “Severe increases in materials and energy costs are causing concerns, and together with the shortage of skilled workers, these issues are posing serious question marks over the input cost assumptions used in the Draft Determinations of the Periodic Review issued by ORR. More positively, the emerging views of the merits of electrification and new lines are very welcome. On the former, we're working with Network Rail to find ways to reduce the cost of electrification to make this more viable, and we're stressing the need to build resources for a future programme. On the latter, we're part of Project Greenguage, promoting the case for new high-speed lines. There are serious issues of financing in the current market on the rolling stock side and we're concerned about the possibility that a series of large train builds will all be procured at the same time creating a feast and famine situation yet again.”