High speed rail

Frazer Henderson, Head of High Speed and Cross-Border Rail Policy, Transport Scotland

The UK Rail Summit, to be held in London on 13th March 2019, will tackle themes challenging the industry at the moment. 

The UK has the fastest growing railway in Europe with one of the best safety records. It is a UK success story but recent challenges in catering for continual growth has resulted in criticism from passengers and politicians, with calls for renationalisation. The organisational structure of the UK's railways is no longer working. 

Transport Scotland's Frazer Henderson will sit on a panel speaking about why HS2 is a key element of the UK's Transport Strategy. Below he gives you an insight on what this discussion may entail. 

To hear more about this, book your place now to attend on the 13th March.

High Speed Rail

There is little new under the sun.

Recently, I read a post on LinkedIn by the CEO of a US affinity marketing agency in which he promoted the 'new' concept of issuing a memo setting out the issues prior to the holding of a meeting in order to minimise the time taken providing updates. His evangelism for this 'new' approach was boundless as he noted that the memo improved the efficiency of meetings and generated better questions and discussions. He also stated that others might wish to adopt such an approach. Now, it's not my intention to knock enthusiasm - goodness knows we need more of it in business – but I would contend that his recently adopted approach has been standard practice for years: he's merely reimagining a standard approach/product to a new audience.

Anyway, the CEO's approach got me thinking about messaging and in my discipline how we discuss and promote our railway.

I believe that we all want broadly the same things from the railway – reliability, competitive journey times, appropriate network coverage, cost efficiency, being environmentally-aware, safety conscious, ease of use and comfort - though we may place different values on their relative importance.

And we all know that these characteristics or aspects have a direct impact on our economy and social welfare: positive when the railway gets them right and negative when it doesn't.

What is also clear is that HS2 is integral to our railway: it is not a separate entity. Therefore, it has to align with the aforementioned characteristics. And more recently, and with increasing emphasis, the marketing of the high speed rail concept has stressed its potential as a catalyst for fundamental change to reshape the economic geography of the country by rebalancing Britain and transforming and raising levels of productivity and economic prosperity.

The notion of high speed rail simply being about speed has long gone for those of us associated with the rail industry. But that outdated message of speed, and only speed, remains for the project's detractors and the casual observer. And one can understand with a project entitled High Speed 2 how such thought prevails.

What is needed is some reimagining and someone – no, indeed all of us - to start talking with evangelical zeal about the next generation of our railway: a railway applying modern technology but built upon the core characteristics and substantial legacy of our existing railway.

So, in that vein I've written this memo to self to frame my contributions in terms of the characteristics and values discussed above so that – in line with the latest HS2 publication Realising the Potential – the focus is on capacity, investment and innovation, improving the functioning of agglomerations and labour markets and, through proper integration, ensuring the next generation of rail complements the existing, classic network so as to enhance the current rail offer and create a new, refreshed economic, cultural and environmental legacy.

On reflection – and with one's tongue not too deeply embedded in one's cheek – there is clearly something to be said about the benefits of memos and affinity marketing.

Frazer Henderson is Head of High Speed and Cross-Border Rail Policy at Transport Scotland