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Weathering the storm with cause for optimism


There is certainly a chill in the air as we reach the end of November and the weekend’s terrible storm that brought pandemonium to many parts of the UK with gales, snow and heavy rain is stark reminder of how vulnerable the country’s infrastructure can be when the unexpected hits us so hard. 

Our thoughts are firmly with the families of the three people who died during Storm Arwen and those people who were trapped, stranded or without power for prolonged periods. 

Over the weekend, Transport for Wales suspended many of its rail services as did Scotland’s railway – mostly due to fallen trees and debris blocking lines. LNER advised passengers not to travel north of York on Saturday and Sunday evening due to ‘significant damage to the rail network.’ These were just a few of the great many ‘travel chaos’ headline reported by the biggest news channels. 

Despite the rail industry’s ‘best-laid’ winter preparedness plans, acts of nature are always going to happen, knocking the nation sideways. Inevitable disruption often ensues during and in the immediate aftermath. However, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly the planners and orange army mobilise and how swiftly and efficiently they put things back together again. 

There are always lessons we can learn and things we might do better next time around. But in a crisis, it isn’t always the emergency itself that defines us; it is often the way we respond to it. On behalf of the railway family, I would like to thank everyone involved over the weekend and today for their hard work, commitment and their determination to keep the travelling public and freight safe on the move. In such terrible weather, we know it can’t have been easy. 

So that is the now. Looking to the future, two reports published in recent weeks give some cause for optimism as our transport strategists and planners start to look at the shape of Britain’s railways in the future. The government’s Integrated Rail Plan has, understandably, been greeted warmly by some and coolly by others. Justifiably, many are concerned about HS2’s Eastern leg whilst others are excited about the potential of a mass transit system for West Yorkshire, the development of the Midlands Hub, the upgrade of the Transpennine route and much more.

The Union Connectivity Review led by independent chair, by Sir Peter Hendy CBE, was published last week. Sir Peter was asked by the government to examine:

  • the quality and availability of transport infrastructure within the UK 
  • where future investment should be targeted

The review considers transport projects that could improve connectivity and assesses their feasibility and potential impact on economic growth, social cohesion and quality of life. It also looks to the future – considering the role of future technologies and assessing the environmental impacts of current and future infrastructure. Please click here to read more. 

The challenge now, alongside the Williams-Shapps Review, is bringing it all together into something meaningful, something that adds real value and something that is sustainable – now and for future generations. So, please watch this space over the coming weeks and months as we bring you more updates via Rail Insider. 

The weekend’s announcement that wearing a face covering on public transport will again become mandatory in parts of England where it isn’t already compulsory is unfortunate but very much needed as we work together to reduce the spread of the new Omicron variant of Coronavirus. It makes you wonder if this will ever end, but hopefully people will follow the new rules so that, sometime soon (said in hope), we can put this challenging period of our lives behind us. 

And finally…25 November 2021 was White Ribbon Day. White Ribbon is global effort to change behaviours and cultures that lead to abuse or violence against women and girls. I would urge you all to get behind this important initiative. Violence of any kind or interpretation against women and girls can have no place in our industry or society. Please wear your white ribbon and tell the world that you say “No” – “No” to committing these abhorrent acts. “No” to excusing these abhorrent acts. “No” to being silent about these abhorrent acts. #AllMenCan. 

Thanks for reading! 

Simon Taylor
This week’s guest writer at Rail Insider


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