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Get into Rail: A User’s Guide to Trading in the UK Rail Sector

(Photo shoot 1010-047). Rail Alliance staff portraits at The Control Tower, Long Marston Storage, Stratford on Avon. Pictured is Robert HopkinRobert Hopkin, Executive Director at the Rail Alliance provides a guide to the opportunities of, and requirements for, trading in the UK Rail Sector. Robert will also be presenting a “Get into Rail” workshop at the upcoming SMAS 2016 Conference.

If you follow the onward march of the high speed railway campaign throughout the United Kingdom then you cannot help but have noticed the latest (and probably the last for now) of 11 HS2 Supply Chain Regional Roadshows takes place in Aberdeen on 6 September – just before this year’s Scottish MAS conference.

The HS2 Supply Chain event is a free-to-attend event (but you do need to pre-register) and is the latest such event conveying the High Speed Rail message and proclaiming the unique needs and requirements that one might need to be successful in gaining work packages out of HS2.  The ability to show enhanced value in what you offer has never been more important as the railway (high speed or not) looks to derive more value from its operations be they on board a train, on track or trackside, or within the ‘dark art’ (apparently!) of signalling and communications.  I commend it to you as a good opportunity (if not ‘the opportunity’ for Scottish-based businesses) to rub shoulders with the HS2 Supply Chain folk and hear the HS2 message at a Scottish location as well as having the opportunity to ask questions and clarify any doubts (the location is the Beach Ballroom in Aberdeen.

That said one could argue, never mind the railway of the 2020s and beyond, today’s railway needs that same hi-tech level of expertise, innovation and value proposition in its pursuit to become more efficient, deliver more value and, not least, to become better in terms of its ecological credentials.  This pursuit began with the Railway Technical Strategy (2007) as laid down by the Technology, whereby the optimisation of the ‘4Cs’ was seen (and still is) as the long term vision for the industry.  The ‘4Cs’ challenge to the industry is to increase Customer satisfaction and Capacity whilst decreasing Cost and Carbon emissions.  At that time, stretch targets were set such that, by 2038, Capacity would have doubled, Cost and Carbon emissions would have been halved and the Customer Satisfaction levels would have shifted from 90% to 99%.

So, are these targets still relevant and still achievable? Well, the second edition of the Railway Technical Strategy (2012) thought so and, if my opinion was sought, my answers would be ‘definitely’ and ‘possibly’ respectively – witness the recently launched TOC16 innovation competition . The TOC16 is a £4M competition (the Rail Alliance is one of the technology brokers for this competition) for those companies with an innovative solution to a current issue, problem or inefficiency being experienced by the Train Operating Companies (TOCs).  For instance, that innovative solution of yours could simply be a better value way of achieving ‘Business as Usual’ but at lower cost or through providing an enhanced level of output.

In fact, HS2 will be offering a relatively small number of contracts (less than 15 from memory); but, they will be big ones!  To get the best view of these contracts it will be in your interests to register with CompeteFor as this will be the portal used by HS2 to advertise work packages. CompeteFor will be attending the HS2 Regional Supply Chain Seminar in Aberdeen on 6 September.  In terms of contracts, the areas covered will include Enabling Works, Design and Services, Tunnels, Surface Route, Stations, Railway Systems and, of course, Rolling Stock.  Having attended at least 6 of these events personally (the Rail Alliance attends all HS2 regional roadshows as an industry partner), some of the fundamental parts of the HS2 message to the supply base are common and – if not already in place – should be addressed quickly as they have benefits for all other tender applications.

The first thing I would suggest you do is to review your Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Policy to make sure it is fit for purpose, is properly embedded across your organisation and can stand close scrutiny by HS2 should you be looking to ‘go after’ HS2 work packages.  Is there – for instance – evidence related to your company minimising the potential for discrimination, harassment and bullying?  Have you a record for engaging with local disadvantaged and underrepresented people or groups? Do you promote the effectiveness of your EDI policy such that you have developed targets to measure your progress and are you monitoring the implementation of the policy through the achievement of targets?  Is there linkage between your EDI policy and your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity – should there be, could there be?

Secondly, make no mistake about there being no repetition of the ‘bad old days’ of ‘passing on’ pain up and down the supply chain through acrimonious, adversarial relationships; the HS2 ‘way’ will be one of fair payment charters (as currently exists in Network Rail Infrastructure Projects), backed up by a truly collaborative way of working and, to this end, the exemplar standard will be the world’s first national standard for Collaborative Business Relationships – BS 11000 which is soon to be available in ISO form (yes, you guessed it … as ISO 11000).  So, how obvious are your collaborative credentials?  How do your company’s mission statement and core values address collaboration in the round – do you do what you say you do? How would HS2 know that?

With regard to collaboration and its benefits – I am a ‘convert’ in that I have had the pleasure of working with one of the oldest and most respected collaborations of all time in that the last 3 years of my military career (2006-09) were spent as a Director of an independent NATO Headquarters (HQ) in Belgium.  Now, just to set a few things straight and do not let people tell you otherwise … Belgium is a fantastic country, full of great people, wonderful beers, fantastic food as well as having a curious obsession to light every road regardless of size or importance!  However, back to the essentials, working with 17 nations in one HQ on behalf of a collaboration of 26 nations (in 2006, Albania and Croatia had yet to join NATO) was indeed a challenging and rewarding experience.  Of course, the benefits far outweighed the negatives, but it did take a few days and sometimes weeks for some of the NATO ‘newbies’ to discover their inner collaborative mindset without going overboard (one way or the other) and, as a result, becoming either a liability or grossly inefficient!

So, if you need to improve your collaborative capability in terms of mindset and behaviours, or just to check your current capability against the standard – why not visit the standard – BS11000 – and see what you might have to develop as a skillset and mindset within your company or organization.  Additionally, take a look at the Institute for Collaborative Working and see how the ICW could help you.

If it’s training you need, then we can help – the Rail Alliance has been providing BS11000 training to organisations for over 4 years (the standard itself is just under 6 years old) – contact us further information (apologies for the shameless plug – but that Belgian Beer is expensive!).

Finally, thank you for your time reading this blog entry – I hope to meet you at the SMAS Conference either during the Workshop “Get into Rail”  on 8 September or at the Conference Dinner at the same venue during the evening of 7 September.

These are Robert’s own thoughts and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Rail Alliance or any of the other organisations described.  Robert is an independent consultant from Chester Corrie Consulting working for the Rail Alliance