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Rail Cymru: Ensuring the Network Thrives in a Changing Landscape

4 min

After Peloton Events hosted the Rail Cymru Conference, Quadrant Transport highlights the key takeaways from industry leaders and key stakeholders. 

In its fifth year, the rebranded Rail Cymru Conference saw industry leaders and key stakeholders from across Wales come together and highlight upcoming plans and priorities for the Welsh railway.

The maximum capacity event saw the panel discussion allow the audience to interact with these leaders from the Welsh railway industry. Peloton Events were joined by the following: Alexia Course (Director of Transport Operations at Transport for Wales), Alasdair MacDonald (Programme Director at Balfour Beatty) and Paul Chesman (Project Director Wales & Western, Rail Infrastructure at Siemens Mobility).

Trust and communication are said to be key to collaboration success
Paul Chesman, Alexia Course and Alasdair MacDonald

One of the leading topics throughout the event was how the supply chain could get more involved with the larger businesses in the sector. This led Alasdair MacDonald to inform the audience that good communication is essential: “If you communicate effectively and trust with your clients, and with your supply chain, then that’s the way of a successful partnership.”

In order for this relationship to work, Alasdair expressed how he looks for an honest conversation that highlights what they want to achieve and how they are better able to do that. This conversation provides a chance for their values to align with their customers’ values.

There is a different travel passenger market emerging in rail

Building trust is not just important for working relationships, but for passengers too. Creating this trust and confidence in the travelling public is essential, especially pre-pandemic. Usage of trains remains considerably lower than before the pandemic, with the 248 million journeys in the second quarter of 2021, equating to 55.4% of the 448 million journeys made in the second quarter of 2019-20.

Paul Chesman expressed how a strong relationship between rail and passengers is important because it creates this confidence among the travelling public.

We need that connection, to deliver reliably and hopefully we can bring technology to shape the railway and shape the overall solution.

One way in which this relationship can be strengthened is by adapting to passenger needs. Before the pandemic, peak time on the network was the busiest. Now, the weekend shows the strongest demand as people are continuing to work from home.

Alexia Course

Alexia Course expressed concerns that she is not convinced that the travelling public will come back to exactly how they were before the pandemic: “I think we have got a different travel passenger market.”

The new travel passenger market will move from being business focused to being heavily leisure and weekend focused, Alexia told the audience how the industry must adapt to accommodate this travel passenger market.

I think that we, as an industry, to be able adapt a lot quicker than we have been able to adapt to other changes in the past.

Climate change should be a focus of the rail industry  

Other adaptions need to take place in the industry moving forward, with sustainability driving all of the industry’s decision making.

Paul Chesman

Alexia described to the audience that the need for adaptions isn’t just affecting Transport for Wales’ investment decisions, but decisions on small things. For example, their office now has solar panels on the roof.

Continuing to talk about this, Alexia said sustainability is a “feature of everything that we do, whether it’s a major scale investment with our partners and colleagues or simple things about how we operate as organisations.”

Since Transport for Wales took over the assets from Network Rail a few years ago, Alexia continued by discussing what Transport for Wales is doing for climate change: “There is plenty that we can do for the decarbonisation space, but where we have a diesel fleet on a non-electrified railway, what can we do to is try and move to more hybrid technology in the long-term.”

The message throughout the panel was clear. The industry, though it has come far in the last decade, must now make adjustments that put the travelling public at the forefront and that communication is the key focus.

Click here to read more on what Alasdair MacDonald had to say on collaboration.