Rail Forum Midlands’ (RFM) Annual Conference on 17 October 2019 was a sell-out success with nearly 200 delegates attending to network and listen to high-level rail industry speakers talk on a range of rail topics.

Midlands Connect, Director, Maria Machancoses announced that – whether or not Brexit happens this month – she is pushing the government hard, to confirm that HS2 phase two will be accelerated for the benefit of the Midlands economy, as a whole.  Maria was instrumental to the recent launch of the Midlands Engine Rail initiative which proposes £3.5bn investment in our Midlands rail infrastructure; underpinned by HS2.

She was followed by the Rail Delivery Group’s CEO Paul Plummer, who gallantly defeated train cancellations en-route to deliver the next speech, on-time. He centred on the rail industry’s success in surpassing the government target of 50% digital ticket sales. This means that more than one thousand kilometres of paper tickets has been saved over the last year – ahead of sustainability targets. Paul is looking forward to the imminent report from the Williams’ Review which will set the future direction for the industry.

East Midlands Railway’s interim MD, Julian Edwards then introduced the audience to the new EMR franchise. He described developments planned for the Midland Mainline including the replacement of diesel with bi-mode trains in 2022 – which will significantly reduce particulate matter in the air – and the cessation of single car trains on other services.  He also mentioned plans for the development of eco-stations along the line and the continuation of the train maintenance contract at the Etches Park depot in Derby.

Network Rail’s, Director, Susan Cooklin honed in on the importance of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the supply chain and stressed her personal commitment to ensuring Network Rail becomes easier for them to do business with.  She invited SMEs to contact her directly with any problems and expressed her willingness to provide as much support as possible for these most important members of the rail supply chain.  She also confirmed that Network Rail’s policy is shifting so that SMEs can be paid in five days rather than 30 because she understands their cash flow concerns.

Resonate’s Anna Ince talked about the Rail Sector Deal Midlands-based pilots supporting SMEs before entering into a panel discussion with Porterbrook’s Mary Grant and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s, Mike Noakes.

The day ended with RFM Board Directors, Donna Bickley (Inside Out Group), Rupert Brennan-Brown (Porterbrook), Nicola Phillips (Siemens) and Laura Cawdell (TUV Rheinland)  providing updates on their RFM Operational Delivery Group plans for 2020, including a plan of RFM events for 2020. These will soon start to populate the events section on our website, in the run-up to Christmas.

RFM’s CEO, Elaine Clark said “our Annual Conference is always a highlight of the year for us and our members.  It’s a big undertaking with a lot of effort from everyone involved so I’m delighted that feedback from those attending and presenting has been so positive.  As always, there was a great vibe in the room – so much so that a number of our presenters commented on the friendliness of everyone on the day.  The RFM rail family is unique in this regard; it goes beyond the networking that everyone talks about and which everyone knows is an important aspect of this and our other events”.

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