Taking the Rail Industry’s Pulse

It's been over six months since the Rail Supply Group (RSG) was asked by Government to set up and lead the rail industry Covid-19 Taskforce to drive forward an industry-wide recovery and stronger bounce back.

RSG was the perfect vehicle since we had already committed to working with Government on fostering the delivery of the Rail Sector Deal between gov-ernment and industry. In short, our aim 'to protect and strengthen the capabil-ity and competitiveness of the rail supply industry at home and overseas' be-came ever more important.

Uniquely, the RSG Covid-19 Taskforce consists of senior leaders from two Government Departments — Transport (DfT) and Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) — key rail organisations including Network Rail, Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and HS2 as well as leaders from rail businesses across the UK. With such experience around the table we have been able to hammer out tangible industry-wide solutions.

Right now we are driving forward a set of 'Act Now' initiatives which address the industry's immediate challenges and will ultimately provide a platform for lasting industry-wide change and longer-term transformation. Our sector des-perately needs to restore and serve a modern, customer-focused railway.

Given the advent of the pandemic, the RSG Taskforce commissioned market researchers Savanta ComRes to find out from UK rail businesses their main challenges. The industry was unanimous on three priority actions. Firstly, to improve work pipeline visibility; secondly, simplify data access; and thirdly change railway access arrangements.

The RSG Taskforce got to work immediately on these priorities. We have al-ready completed 'work pipeline visibility' pilots with the Network Rail Transpire and REAL Alliances in partnership with BAM Nuttal, VolkerRail and their sup-pliers. We are now working with HS2, TfL, Nexus, Porterbrook and Stadler Rail to do just the same.

By Spring 2021, the aim is to develop an 'Industry Transparency Charter' and then link this with supplier engagement, supplier assessment and importantly the inclusion of the Charter in future contracts.

RSG are also pushing forward with the development of an 'open data market-place' which can be used to bring improvements to customer journeys and freight. Our work is currently focused on the legal and commercial framework required to make this happen. Opening up data access is essential to help re-store ridership and revenue in a post-Covid-19 world.

On changing railway access arrangements, we are working with Network Rail in the Southern Region and North West and Central Region to best under-stand how possessions could become far more productive. We are looking closely at the way the industry goes about planning access, giving access as well as delivering works and handing back. In partnership with Network Rail, we are now exploring ways of doing things differently which requires every-one in the industry to be open and willing to change current practice.

Six months on, it's time to revisit rail suppliers to understand if, and indeed how their challenges and priorities have changed. I am urging all suppliers at every level of the supply chain to voice their opinions in our latest Pulse survey. The Pulse survey will take 10 minutes to complete and is available here.


Anna Ince is Vice Chair of the Rail Supply Group (RSG) the Government backed leadership body representing all UK rail suppliers. Learn more about RSG and find out how you can get involved rsgtaskforce.org or contact us at [email protected]