3rd March 2022

Joining the conversation at Rail North of the Border

Today (Thursday 3rd March), representatives from our Rail Division attended the Rail North of the Border conference in Glasgow.

Rail Director David Buckley and our Regional Manager for Scotland David Maxwell joined 500 exhibition guests as Transport Scotland, Network Rail and Scotland’s Railway discussed Scotland’s future.

Some of the big topics on the table covered ownership, net-zero targets, innovation, sustainability and alternative fuel sources.

We sat down with David Buckley and David Maxwell and asked them for their insights during the event. Here is what they had to say.

How will the rail sector thrive with the new ownership of SRT?

We expect there will be a more centralised approach from the Scottish Government which may well bring them in line with Transport Scotland.

The asset managers and the senior NWR team, this may well cut down some of the bureaucracy that exists when filtering down to a TOC such as ScotRail/Abellio.

What priorities are in place to achieve net-zero targets by 2035?

Electrifying the railway will provide a significant step change towards net zero targets by 2035, removing diesel trains from the network.

Alternative fuel sets such as battery, hydrogen and hybrid trains are also positive steps in the right direction for localised services, however the priority should be Overhead Line Electrification (OLE).

How does rail exploit the positive trends in innovation and sustainability?

Innovation is critical to driving down the cost of electrification and making it more sustainable.

Unlocking innovation has always been a challenging for the rail industry and partnerships with research bodies and universities through initiatives such as KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) we have found to be very fruitful.

For example, we currently have a PHD student developing a digital track monitoring system which will be used with our innovative Track Bed Stabilisation system.

In addition to the work being done through KTP, it is also important to look to the future and attract a more dynamic, diverse and innovative workforce.

STEM and similar organisations are vital to attracting young people to the rail industry and safeguarding our future.

What alternative fuel sources are available?

Hydrogen and battery-powered trains are already being developed and trialled and we have had the pleasure of travelling on a battery-powered train during the recent COP 26 events, however we believe electrification is the key to achieving the 2035 targets.

Van Elle is investing in the next generation of piling spec road rail vehicles (RRVs) to enable decarbonisation through electrification.

Innovating with our partners we aim to reduce carbon output using HVO fuel and in the future Hydrogen RRVs.

How do we make the rail network more socially relevant? 

There is lots of work to be done but one of the main things for me would be to tap into student’s mindsets with attractive discounts and railcards.

The Scottish Government are already giving kids free bus travel, rail needs to catch up!!

For more information about our Rail capabilities, visit our Rail page here.