On the Pendolino…

Before we start this blog most, I’d just like to say that this was written up on the Pendolino from Birmingham-Euston after the event. Everything is from memory, so some of the quotes won’t be entirely accurate, but you’ll get the gist!

As a pre-curser to David, the 200+ audience were warmed up by his colleague, Stuart Calvert, ECI (early contractor involvement) Lead.

Stuart stated that the supply chain hadn’t done enough to push the boundaries of signalling in the last few decades. He went on to explain, that was fair enough though, as the supply chain had simply been responding to the client, Network Rail, and their demands.

The first thing David did when he stood up was to agree with Stuart on this, coining the phrase, that Network Rail had been ‘upgrading the infrastructure in a patchwork quilt manner’.

Time for change…

Waboso reminded the audience that trains were already financed, operated and maintained by the private sector, in deals where Network Rail pay more for better performance and less for less.

David was even so bold as to challenge the audience, a wide mix of infrastructure and signalling suppliers, to reply to his upcoming ‘invitations to tender’ with strategies where the risk lies with the supplier, not how it is at present… with Network Rail.

Waboso said: “We are willing to pay more for a better solution. We’ve brought you all together today so that you can collaborate and deliver us bigger solutions than you have done previously.”

His speech highlighted the time was now for this signalling transformation, commenting: “Never before have Network Rail had the financial and the governmental support to this level. It’s ours to lose!””

It should be added, that we as an industry have never seen such a strong brand (that of Digital Railway itself), focused on delivering this transformation. Adding the highly respected and charismatic Waboso himself, it’s surely going to work.

Future proof

Waboso detailed the type of solutions he was after too. Future proof ones. For example, if you’re designing a signalling scheme to replace existing signalling, he’d like it future proofed, so any upgrades can be done without any further track closures. Changes should be done by changing the software and flicking a switch to turn it on!

He then spoke about the immediate future, focusing on delivering Thameslink, in mid 2018. This would be our industry show piece for how the Digital Railway will work.

So amongst others, my client, Hitachi Information Control Systems Europe, who are delivering the Thameslink TMS (Traffic Management System), have an entire industry riding on their success. No pressure then!

David said, “We must get Thameslink right, otherwise they’ll (the Government, DfT and public) won’t give us a second chance and we’ll have blown it for another generation!”

The upbeat talk ended with a view of transport in general. Waboso mentioned how London Undergound had increased capacity by 40% on the Victoria line without any further infrastructure. Heathrow had increased aviation traffic by 60% without any more runways and how ture autonomous cars were only a few years away.

A call for disruptive behaviour

As for a genuine disruptor in the rail sector, he mentioned that Hyperloop had gone from a 0/10 possibility in his mind, now to a 3/10. He said that his perspective had changed with recently prototype developments, new investment and the backing of people like Richard Branson.

Fingers crossed for the success of Thameslink in CP5, because then Traffic Management and C-DAS suppliers (the two areas David said would receive much of the funding) will be having a bumper CP6! Links


Find out more about the event here

Watch Hitachi’s digital railway animation, created by WillB in 2016.