Welcome to the February 2024 issue of our e-newsletter!

Welcome to the February 2024 issue of our e-newsletter where you can read about industry events and publications as well as activities that the Rail Cluster project is leading or supporting.

New members
A warm welcome to new members of the Rail Cluster this month:

You'll hear more about our new members in an upcoming round-up. 

Rail Cluster project in numbers
  • 795* registered individuals
  • 598 registered companies
  • 284 registered SMEs
*Number of registered individuals has reduced due to the removal of invalid email addresses.

1-2-1 sessions
We continue to speak with our members in 1-2-1 sessions. These are incredibly useful for us to make sure we provide the right support where needed and make connections with the most beneficial resources. It's important to us to connect with as many members as possible so please do get in touch with us and let us know how we can help – shonaclive@scottishengineering.org.uk.

Inclusion in future issues
We're happy to share updates from our members, so if you have anything to share in future issues, please do get in touch by emailing shonaclive@scottishengineering.org.uk or by calling Shona Clive on 07967 366731. This could be from a rail sector organisation or an SME. Perhaps a project success, innovation, or milestone that you want to share, particularly if it supports the aims of the Rail Services Decarbonisation Action Plan.

Request for photography
If you have any company photographs that we could use for rail cluster collateral, we would love to hear from you.  We would use in various communications such as reports, or the rail cluster web pages and any other promotional materials and we would always credit you when using your images.  We would welcome images from all areas of the rail sector in Scotland; infrastructure, rolling stock, freight, train operating company images etc. so please get in touch if you have any images that you would be happy for us to use – shonaclive@scorttishengineering.org.uk.

1. Rail Cluster news


What's new on the Hub?

News page

We have launched a news page on our website, where we will share relevant news from the rail cluster, the wider industry, and members. We will also be uploading our monthly newsletters here in case you missed anything.

If you have some news you’d like to share with Rail Cluster members, please email this to us.

Is there something you’d like to know more about in the rail sector?

This year we are planning to launch a webinar series featuring expert sessions covering aspects accross the rail sector, and we’d love to know what our members are interested in hearing about.

We know contract opportunities will be top of that list so rest assured, we are working on getting an update for the rail cluster.

If you'd like to share your expertise with the network at one of these webinars, we welcome you to get in touch too. The purpose will be to help other members expand their knowledge on specific topics within the sector. 

If you’d like to share your thoughts, add to the conversation here.

Update your profile

Make sure the details on your profile are filled out and up to date. This allows other members to find you, understand your company cababilities and get in touch - it could open doors to new opportunities.

2. Industry news


Celebrating apprenticeships

National Apprenticeship Week UK was 5-11 February, and still to come is Scottish Apprenticeship Week, taking place from 4-8 March to recognise the role of apprenticeships in Scotland.

Get involved, and find everything you need at apprenticeships.scot/scotappweek.

Opportunities in Rail

Network Rail have opened applications for their next apprentice intake, including new apprenticeship offerings. Why not encourage the young people in your life to pursue a career in rail? See the vacancies here.

Support from NSAR

In support of National Apprenticeship Week, The National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR) is promoting the value of apprenticeships and how businesses can find support.

Follow the links below to find out more.

Trains given green light to use Levenmouth Rail Link

Network Rail has commissioned the signalling system on the new £116m Levenmouth Rail Link - meaning trains can use the line.

The signalling was successfully tested and brought into use in January and ScotRail will now be able to begin training drivers on the new route.

This will see a significant number of trains on the track in coming weeks as drivers develop their knowledge of the new section of railway between Thornton Junction and Leven Station.

Completion of the signalling and the start of driver training is a major step on the way to reconnecting Leven to the mainline railway with passenger services set to begin this summer.

A Scottish Government funded investment, the Levenmouth Rail Link will deliver six miles of new railway and two new stations – at Leven and Cameron Bridge – to open up new social and economic opportunities for the local community.

Member feature: Overcoming barriers to innovation in the rail industry

Written by David Muse, Chief Technical Architect at Petards Rail for Rail Business Daily

In this feature, David Muse discusses the barriers to innovation and explains how rail organisations can overcome them, all while learning from other sectors.

At Petards Rail, our focus is delivering cutting-edge projects within the rail industry, an environment that demands precision and innovation. My team and I have successfully rolled out multiple high-level projects, each contributing significantly to the advancement of rail technology and safety. I’m particularly proud of our latest solution – an Automatic Selective Door Operation (ASDO) system.

Innovation is key to the progress and competitiveness of the rail industry – but a range of barriers can impede its pace and implementation. Understanding these barriers and finding ways to overcome them is essential.

Click below to read about David's six barriers and proposed solutions. 

Completion of £15 million engineering programme in Scotland

Network Rail completed a multi-million-pound programme of engineering upgrades across Scotland over the festive period, which will improve reliability and punctuality for passengers and freight customers.

A key junction at Greenhill near Falkirk on the Edinburgh-Glasgow main line was modernised. Over nine days, engineers replaced the junction and over 1km of track. A new state-of-the-art signalling system was also installed to control trains in this area, the heart of Scotland’s Railway.

In Edinburgh, engineers replaced almost 2km of track on the East Coast Mainline at Craigentinny, delivering smoother passenger journeys. New drainage systems were installed at Princes St Gardens and Haymarket station, to help the railway better deal with extreme weather.

Dundee station saw one of its critical junctions replaced, improving reliability on the East Coast route.

At Hairmyres, engineers demolished three bridges as the £140 million Scottish Government-funded East Kilbride Enhancement Project gets underway. It will see the Glasgow to East Kilbride route upgraded and electrified, enabling greener electric trains to be introduced.

In Glasgow, teams worked over Christmas and New Year to carry out maintenance and repairs in the tunnels between Partick and Glasgow Queen Street, first built in 1886, almost 140 years ago.

The Helensburgh area saw a signalling system upgrade that’ll help keep the busy North Clyde and West Highland Line services on time. This includes the modernisation of several level crossings to improve safety.

Rail operator welcomes 50 per cent increase in female apprentices

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has revealed a sharp increase in the number of women starting an apprenticeship. They welcomed a total of 176 new starters in 2023, with 60 of these coming from female applicants, representing a 50 per cent increase from the previous year.

The data comes after 2022 saw the highest number of female applicants for train driver roles in five years, revealing a growing interest in the industry. The numbers are a positive reflection of rail becoming more inclusive and demonstrates GTR’s commitment to diversify its workforce.

There are a total of 14 apprenticeship courses on offer at GTR, and the rail operator supports employees to study alongside their day jobs in order to aid development and upskill. As well as an increase in women starting apprenticeships, the overall number of employees taking on an apprenticeship increased by 22 per cent last year.

Government sets target to grow rail freight by at least 75 percent

Even more vital goods will be transported across the UK by rail, following an ambitious target announced by Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, to grow rail freight by at least 75 percent.

From delivering food to supermarkets, to transporting building materials to construction sites, rail freight is a vital part of everyday life in the UK, carrying tens of billions of pounds worth of vital goods.

Not only does this target provide the sector with certainty by setting a clear pace for growth by 2050, but it will also lead to significant environmental benefits by taking lorries off our roads – slashing emissions and congestion in the process. For example, just one train can replace up to 129 HGVs, and a tonne of freight moved by rail produces about a quarter of the carbon emissions it does by road.

Britain’s railways experience 10 percent year-on-year revenue growth

Great British Railways Transition Team’s (GBRTT) Train Travel Snapshot continues to track the sustained recovery of railway revenue post-pandemic, revealing a 10 percent uplift to £2.6 billion in the three months to September, compared to the same quarter last year.

It comes as new figures from the Office for Rail and Road show total of 397 million journeys were made by rail passengers in the Britain in the latest quarter (1 July to 30 September 2023). This number is a 14 percent increase on the same period in 2022. The analysis also shows a 21 percent increase in the number of journeys made in comparison to the previous 12 months.

The ORR also found that total passenger revenue was £2.6 billion in the latest quarter, a 10 percent increase on the same period last year (when adjusted for inflation).

ScotRail recognised as UK Top Employer 2024

ScotRail has again been recognised as a Top Employer in the United Kingdom, marking the fifth consecutive time the operator has been recognised with the accolade.

The Top Employers Institute programme certifies organisations based on the participation and results of its HR Best Practices Survey, which covers six HR domains consisting of 20 topics. These include People Strategy, Work Environment, Talent Acquisition, Learning, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Wellbeing and more.   

The programme has certified and recognised more than 2,300 Top Employers in 121 countries and regions across five continents. 

Angus Railway Group shares photo competition entries, plus another competition launched

Angus Railway Group has shared some of the 50-plus images entered into their annual photographic competition, including stunning images from home and abroad.

Angus Railway Group has spent 52 years charting the changing face of Tayside and Fife’s tracks since being established by Lindsay Horne and David Tough in 1972.

The group is still going strong in 2024 and members submit images every year to the annual photographic competition in memory of Mr Horne, who passed away in 2012.

Take a look through the gallery to see the photos.

And in related news, a national photography competition is returning this year in celebration of ‘Railway 200’, a year-long programme of events and celebrations to recognise the significance of the past 200 years of railway history. 

Young Railway Photographer of the Year competition 2025 is organised by the National Railway Museum, The Railway Photographic Society and supported by leading partners from the railway and photography industries. The competition is seeking the best images from photographers aged 25 and under.

The competition opened on 1 February 2024 and is running until 31 January 2025.

Specialist school gets ultimate railway experience

Budding railway enthusiasts from a specialist school for autism in Lancashire became station assistants and signallers for the day at Manchester Piccadilly station.

On Wednesday 24 January eight students from Hillside Specialist School and College, near Preston, got a behind the scenes tour at the major North West station.

The group visited the station’s Assisted Travel Lounge, station control room and the Manchester Piccadilly signal box.

In the station control room, the pupils saw how important public information announcements are made, and where the safety of 100,000 passengers a day is monitored 24/7.

The students got a taste for railway signalling at Manchester Piccadilly signal box. Using Network Rail’s training simulator, the pupils learnt how to safely control the movement of trains, just like the signallers at the station, who manage trains from the East Midlands, North Wales, Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria.

ScotRail triples the number of body worn cameras on Scotland’s Railway

ScotRail plans to more than triple its number of body worn cameras in a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour on Scotland’s Railway. 

The train operator will roll out more than 1,000 new body cameras by the end of this month, replacing its existing suite of 350 body cameras, while increasing the number of units available to frontline staff.  

The introduction of the new devices is part of a £1.6million investment to tackle anti-social behaviour on Scotland’s Railway. 

ScotRail first introduced body worn cameras in 2017, following a successful trial. During the trial, the train operator found that customers positively changed their behaviour when they were informed that they were being recorded.  

Since then, body cameras have proven to be invaluable in providing evidence on incidents, such as assaults on staff, with successful prosecutions resulting from their use. 

Other initiatives include increasing the number of frontline staff, particularly on late night trains on key routes, and the recent expansion of the train operator’s Travel Safe Team. 

Never Mind The Gap showcases career opportunities in rail

LNER and Network Rail are proud to have supported the ‘Never Mind The Gap’ initiative offering work experience and highlighting the opportunities open for women in the rail industry.

Through a joint partnership with Women in Rail, ‘Never Mind The Gap’ provides training and placements for women who want to get their career ‘on track’ after a period out of work, either following career breaks or redundancy. 

This year women from York and Doncaster have been taking part in the scheme, some of whom have previously worked in the health and media industries. 

Each of them has had the opportunity of direct one-to-one experience with rail industry colleagues working in areas of interest to them.  As well as hands-on work experience, they have also taken part in three days of training, including interview skills and CV writing tips and they were treated to a First-Class journey with LNER to London King’s Cross, where they were given the rare opportunity to scale the roof of the historic station. 

Over a fortnight, the group gained work experience at LNER as well as Network Rail and rail company Siemens across a variety of different roles. These roles have included the engineering team, communications team, health and wellbeing, onboard and station teams and visit to LNER’s virtual reality simulator. 

PlanBEE Rail to drive talent development in the rail sector

A pioneering apprenticeship has been launched to address skills shortages and give people the chance to launch their careers in the rail industry.

Network Rail and their supply chain partners have joined forces with Gateshead College to launch PlanBEE Rail, a bespoke apprenticeship programme which aims to develop a new generation of multidisciplinary project managers, specifically trained to meet the changing needs of the rail sector.

Apprentices will complete a Level 4 higher apprenticeship in associate project management, gaining hands-on experience on some of the UK’s most significant infrastructure projects, including the Transpennine Route Upgrade programme, the Digital Railway programme and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Successful candidates will be based in York, Leeds, Doncaster, and Huddersfield and will be employed to learn on the job, with a starting salary of more than £22,000. During the two-year programme, they’ll undertake four six-month placements working for leading employers in the rail sector including Alstom, AmcoGiffen, Amey, Balfour Beatty, BAM, Keltbray, Morgan Sindall, Network Rail, Systra, Transpennine Express, and Volker Rail.

2. Industry events


Public Transport Scotland

20th February 2024 | 10:00-16:00 | Radisson Blu, Edinburgh

Modern Railways and sister publication Buses are hosting a two-day transport conference, focusing on rail on the first day, and buses on the second.

Day one will have a line-up of senior rail professionals discussing the major innovations and policies shaping the country’s development. The Scottish Government has ambitious plans to decarbonise Scotland’s rail network, and this will be a prominent focus in the discussions during the day.

Speakers include:

  • Bill Reeve, Director of Rail, Transport Scotland
  • Alex Hynes, Managing Director, Scotland’s Railway
  • Ben Ackroyd, Chief Operating Officer, Porterbrook
  • Andrew Sumner, Rail Director, Malcolm Group
  • and many more

Rail Freight Group: Annual Scottish Conference

6th March 2024 | 09:00-13:00 | Leapark Hotel, Grangemouth

RFG is thrilled to announce that Minister for Transport, Ms Fiona Hyslop MSP, and Alex Hynes, Managing Director of Scotland’s Railway, will present at the RFG’s Annual Scottish Conference on March 6th at the Leapark Hotel, Grangemouth. Ms Hyslop will deliver the keynote speech focusing on growth and performance targets in Scotland, while Mr Hynes will provide updates on Network Rail’s achievements and plans for Scotland’s Railway.

The conference will also feature insights from key figures such as David Gordon of TRILINK on critical connectivity through the West Coast Upgrade program, and representatives from Forth Ports Grangemouth, Scotland’s largest container terminal. Additionally, Stephen Canning from Stantec will discuss the STAG process for evaluating transport-related infrastructure initiatives, particularly those concerning freight. Speakers will address strategies to enhance the sector's appeal to new talent and examine collaborative efforts within the agricultural sector to adapt supply chains, exploring the potential role of rail.

Skills Development Scotland: Employer Support Webinars

20th February-27th March 2024 | Online

Skills Development Scotland is running an exciting series of webinars for employers, taking place over the next few months. The webinars will provide useful information and advice on topics such as workforce planning and development, talent attraction, workplace culture and wellbeing. Each webinar will be available on demand from the SDS website once the date has passed. 

  • Available on demand – Learn, Lead Succeed: The Business Owner‘s Guide to Creating a Learning Culture. 
  • Available on demand – Supervisors‘ Success Formula: Motivating Teams with Recognition and Reward. 
  • Available on demand – Talent Attraction. 
  • 20 February, 11am – Wellbeing at Work: Key Management Skills for a Thriving Workforce.
  • 6 March, 12.30pm – Succession Planning. 
  • 12 March, 11am – Joyful Workspaces: Mastering Skills for Cultivating Workplace Happiness. 
  • 20 March, 12.30pm – Skills for a Changing Landscape. 
  • 27 March, 11am – Workforce Development. 
Click the button below for a description of each webinar and the link to sign up.

ERCI Webinar | Norms and Standardisation for Trackside Equipment

Wednesday, 28 February 2024 | 09:00-10:30 GMT | Teams

In this ERCI webinar, you will learn about norms for signalling trackside equipment.
At the European or international level, there is no standard specifying test requirements for the type testing of trackside railway signaling and telecommunications equipment. This absence hinders fair comparison of tests conducted by different competitors. Manufacturers often rely on EN 50125-3, which defines normal operational environmental conditions for railway signaling equipment, as a substitute standard.
ECM-Progress Rail Italy has been developing solutions and technologies for the safety, control and improvement of railway infrastructure for more than 60 years. You'll hear a brief introduction to the CEN-CENELEC and ISO-IEC standardisation system, an analysis of the existing railway standards for trackside equipment and the idea of a new standard, currently under development, which will define type tests and how to perform them on equipment. 

Read more & register

ERCI Webinar | Seamless Vehicle Positioning in Rail via GNSS-UWB Sensor Fusion

Wednesday, 13 March 2024 | 09:00-10:30 GMT | Teams

In this ERCI webinar, you will learn about highly precise indoor and outdoor positioning of vehicles, assets and people with fusion of technologies as UWB and GNSS/RTK.
Ci4Rail will introduce the challenges and motivation of vehicle positioning in mobility and will demonstrate, how the solution LYVE – Localize Your Vehicle – addresses the demand of highly precise seamless indoor & outdoor vehicle positioning at a lower cost than comparable positioning solutions while fully followings industry standards.
During this webinar Pinpoint discusses the challenges of current indoor positioning systems that are based on WiFi or Bluetooth technologies. After this short technology review the advantages of Ultra-Wideband systems are introduced and how they will drive further uses cases such as indoor navigation for vision and mobility impaired people.

Read more & register
The Rail Cluster Hub is your place to connect and collaborate with other companies within the rail sector, as well as keeping up to date with industry events and publications. Browse the directory to see which companies are part of the Rail Cluster or start a coversation in our forum. 
As a Rail Cluster member you may have an existing account - use your email address to set a new password if required. 
The Rail Cluster Builder project Phase 2 was awarded by Scottish Enterprise to Scottish Engineering in July 2022.  Supported by Transport Scotland and Skills Development Scotland, Phase 2 is a three year project following on from Phase 1 and its purpose is to facilitate connections for SMEs in the engineering and manufacturing sectors in Scotland seeking to diversify into the rail market.  The project is also part of efforts to make Scotland a world leader in creating net zero emissions railways with ambitious targets set by the Scottish Government in its Rail Services Decarbonisation Action Plan to decarbonise Scotland’s rail services by 2035. 

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