Thursday 19th October was a typically dreary, autumnal day, but there was a buzz in the air at Derby’s Pride Park Stadium…

The Rail Forum team welcomed over 170 delegates, from member companies across the UK, to the annual Conference. Midlands Engine Chairman, and first keynote address, Sir John Peace opened the event with an insight into the Midlands Engine vision for growth. Maria Machancoses, Programme Director for Midlands Connect, then discussed the plans to power the Midlands Engine and what is next for Midlands Connect, before East Midlands Councils’ Director of Policy & Infrastructure, Andrew Pritchard outlined the East Midlands HS2 Growth Strategy and East Midlands rail franchise competition. Delegates then heard from Rob McIntosh, Route Managing Director LNE and EM at Network Rail, on creating a sustainable rail industry for the East Midlands.

Following a brief Q&A session and networking break, Neil Robertson, Chief Executive at NSAR, discussed the necessity of delivering the Rail Skills Strategy, and the ‘need to more than double apprenticeships in two years’ to fulfil the current and future workload. Rail Delivery Group Chief Executive, Paul Plummer, then gave an updated insight into the development of the ‘Rail Sector Deal’, followed by Chief Executive Officer at Resonate, Anna Ince, who looked at creating market conditions for growth. The speakers then assembled for a short panel Q&A session before a networking lunch.

Elaine Clark, Rail Forum General Manager kicked off the final session with a review of the team’s work over the past 12 months to deliver the RFM Strategy following its official launch at the 2016 Conference. Elaine updated members on the support the Forum continues to provide through events, VIP visits and behind the scenes, and encouraged companies to get involved with the planned 2017/18 activities. Hitachi Rail Europe’s Sales Director, Nick Hughes then took to the stage to discuss the story of the Hitachi Class 800, before HS2 Engineering Director, Giles Thomas looked at the concept to construction of phase one. Jake Kelly, Managing Director at East Midlands Trains then explored the need to create a diverse railway in the East Midlands and actions being taken to achieve this. Finally in a week that saw Bombardier selected as preferred supplier for 333 new electric carriages for the new West Midlands franchise Richard Hunter, Managing Director of Bombardier introduced Lord Prior of Brampton, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, who gave the closing keynote address, where he highlighted the vision of one railway: digitally connecting the nation, and said ‘Digital presents Britain with the chance to start building again…’

The RFM team would like to thank the fantastic speakers and member companies who joined us on the day. Work will no doubt begin on the 2018 Conference imminently, stay tuned for further details.


 ‘What an event! Lots of big names and a great energy in the room… I took note of one quote in-particular that was about the organisation: RFM is the “best, most energetic regional forum” – if that’s not a glowing reference then I don’t know what is! The conference had a genuine warmth to it with proactive speakers and an enthused audience.’

Joe Whalen, MD Railway Project Services