Thursday 18th October saw this year’s Rail Forum Conference reach new heights…

The Rail Forum team welcomed a record number of delegates, from member companies across the UK, to the Annual Conference.

RFM board member and SNC Lavalin-Atkins regional director, Michael Grace kicked off the proceedings with an overview of the Forum’s activities over the last 12 months. Porterbrook CEO, Mary Grant then formally opened the event with a look at their Hydro Flex project, before introducing the first keynote speaker of the day, Minister for Business and Industry, Richard Harrington MP. Mr Harrington gave guests an insight into the sector deal which lead to a discussion panel and questions from the floor regarding the benefits of the sector strategy for SMEs. Guests learned that the Midlands is to be the pilot area for SME development!

Second keynote address, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Andy McDonald MP commended the region, commenting that the ‘Midlands should be proud of its world class industry’.

Following a second panel session on regional devolution, Bombardier’s Alan Fravolini discussed the how they are building on their success; ‘People matter; one of Bombardier’s key objectives globally is to address the gender mix’.

Rail Freight Group Executive Director, Maggie Simpson gave an engaging review of the opportunities surrounding rail freight and the huge strides being made; from building cities to moving goods. ‘Such a refreshingly honest insight into the world of ‘rail’ and the challenges freight and passenger services face now and in the face of Brexit.’ Lorna McDonald, Business Development Manager at Hitachi Rail Europe.

The final keynote speaker, HS2 Chairman Sir Terry Morgan CBE discussed the vast opportunities HS2 will bring to the Midlands region, and his ‘ambition to have at least 5,000 apprentice engineers’ on board to help tackle the workload and skills gap we face.

During what became a particularly lively lunch, guests were joined by radio royalty, GEM106 presenters Jo and Sparky who gave a passionate presentation on this year’s Cash for Kids’ Christmas Mission and how to get involved. This festive season, the Rail Forum are proudly supporting the appeal, which raises funds and collects gifts for children living in poverty throughout the Midlands. As guests arrived at the Conference that morning, they entered a raffle for the chance to win a giant teddy. Jo and Sparky chose the winner at random and announced that the raffle had raised a staggering £400 to kick start the Rail Forum’s Christmas Mission fund! Huge thank you to Jo and Sparky and our generous delegates! For more information on how your company can support the Christmas Mission appeal, please contact

Speaking from an entirely different perspective than those who had preceded him, Joe Whalen, Managing Director of fledgling company Railway Project Services, looked at his first year of business and some of the big topics in rail from the standpoint of a start-up SME.

The final discussion panel of the day, chaired by the ever-entertaining NSAR CEO Neil Robertson, centred around the rail skills challenge.

Alex Burrows, Managing Director at Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education then took to the stage to discuss the rationale behind UKRRIN and strengthening links between academia and the rail industry in order to deliver the broader economic, social and environmental objectives.

The final speaker, Dr Nick Mallinson, Programme Manager at Warwick Manufacturing Group, looked at very light rail as a means of delivering low-cost railways

The Rail Forum team would like to thank all of the fantastic speakers and member companies who joined us on the day; without you, our rail community would not exist!

Presentations from the day are available on request. Please email

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