A Crossroads of Collaboration

In our latest guest blog, Daisy Chapman-Chamberlain from East-West Rail writes about the critical importance of innovation to rail’s future and following a visit to our site, reflects on the opportunity that the new Global Centre of Rail Excellence offers in the development of next generation technology.

Britain finds itself at a crossroads in more ways than one. With a general election on the cards, and major change within rail inevitable regardless of the electoral outcome, our industry finds itself standing at the door of opportunity.

To maximise this opportunity, one key requirement stands above the rest – the need to collaborate. As readers will know, East West Rail (EWR) is a nationally significant railway project which aims to deliver much-needed transport connections for communities between Oxford and Cambridge, improving people’s access to jobs, education and healthcare, while making it easier to see family and friends and travel for leisure. Across the project, the need for collaboration to enable efficiency in construction, cost, timeframes and carbon reduction are ever-present; opening the door to knowledge sharing with significant infrastructure projects, including HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, and the Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE). Sharing knowledge and innovations can help EWR reduce capital expenditure (CAPEX) in enabling efficient delivery of the railway, in ensuring we are integrating the best rail technologies and innovations possible, and in an open path to future innovation and research once EWR and GCRE are both operational.

Daisy Chapman-Chamberlain, Innovation Manager at East West Rail, on a recent visit to the Global Centre of Rail Excellence with GCRE Head of Innovation, Kelvin Davies

As CP7 (Control Period 7) approaches, innovation across the national network is vital. With a challenging backdrop of maintenance and upgrading, innovation in efficiencies, cost, reliability, materials, and predictive maintenance becomes increasingly essential. Decarbonisation also holds a key focus; a vital component in ensuring that the UK can meet its target of net zero by 2050. From electrification to the development of battery technologies, to recycling and efficiency in supply chains, through to biodiversity, innovation can help to unlock many of the sustainability challenges faced by our already very ‘green’ sector. However, innovation in a vacuum can be both high-risk and high-cost: the collaborative innovation opportunities GCRE will enable the development, testing, and ultimate commercialisation and implementation of this next generation of technology and equipment.

The Global Centre of Rail Excellence Site

Rail supports £43 billion GVA in economic growth, 710,000 jobs, and £14 billion in tax revenue. For every £1 spent on rail, £2.50 of income is generated in the wider economy. Further investment in rail – across major infrastructure projects such as GCRE – will only serve to boost these already impressive figures. Within these economic figures, we can find enormous value shared by both EWR and GCRE; opening the doors to direct new jobs in their respective local communities, to jobs in the supply chain, and to jobs that will grow up around the projects to provide essential services. The impact on the local communities in South Wales and across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc of the growth of a traditional sector such as rail is invaluable.

To enable rail to thrive into the future it is essential that we collaborate: enabling increased efficiency and cost-effective working, enhancing our problem-solving and decision-making abilities across the sector, and boosting innovation. This united front, supported by the research and development opportunities at GCRE, will ensure the future rail sector is efficient, sustainable, cost-effective, safe, customer-focussed, and world-leading.

About the author

Daisy Chapman-Chamberlain is the Innovation Manager at East West Rail, with a passion for transport transformation, sustainability, and inclusion. She works to make the future of rail better for all customers; safer, accessible, and enjoyable. Daisy can be contacted at daisy.chapman-chamberlain@eastwestrail.co.uk

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