Simon Hindshaw (left) and Keith Wallace.
© John Yellowlees, 2011
Drivers for worldwide growth in rail are urbanisation, a wish for high-speed land travel, demand for raw materials and the environmental agenda. Only in the last decade has half the world population lived in an urban environment, but the proportion will be two-thirds by 2050. Global rail spend in the next five years will be £500M annually.
Australian railways carry ten times the amount of freight as British, and Indian Railways are the world's third largest employer while China has four out of the top ten global rail contracts.
China has the greatest length of high speed line, while India has the longest scheduled trains in the world. Twelve metros will open next year in China alone, and the exponential growth in rail spend is due to China which despite Obama's support has just overtaken the USA.
An international market in rail consultancy benefits individuals because travel broadens the mind, while it's great to be able to benchmark against one's peers overseas and to escape the diminishing UK market, getting away from one's comfort zone while being more likely to remain with one's employer.
With London Crossaril taking 114 years from concept to completion against the Athens Metro's less than four, the theft of time arises through constant change and interference, pursuit of a perfect solution for an ever-changing problem, a paralysing approvals process and a desire to reinvent the wheel.
The theft of quality is caused by insufficient time, constant change, methods inappropriate to the project or country, beyond-requirement functionality or not realising that transport shapes the built environment and makes a difference to people's lives. Theft of the budget arises from time being money, constant change, lack of the right stakeholders or too many people marking other people.
India can deliver appropriate solutions at the right price, but is variable on quality. The UK can deliver quality as seen in the East London Line, but China is coming up fast on all fronts. Hong Kong thus emerges as the ideal working environment offering mature clients and a mature market, standardisation and good control with great teamwork and a can-do approach. People bring useful skills back from a stint abroad provided that the home market recognises innovation and the value of a different approach, does not commoditise and wants to change.
Australia, Hong Kong and the USA present huge opportunities for UK companies to locate staff, offering niche experiences that will sell possibilities everywhere provided that the players learn to make the Chinese their friends. The UK can benefit from the experience thus acquired but only through a commitment to teamwork, trust and lifelong learning.
The Scottish Region thanks Scott Wilson Railways for hosting this event.
Report by John Yellowlees
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