HomeFeaturesCommentGlancing back, the week that was…

Glancing back, the week that was…


If anything sums up modern rail, it is the powers of conservation and progress. Harnessing both is important in the management of our rolling stock and the infrastructure that supports it.

A key player to keeping our climate from rising no more than 1.5 degrees, rail is a progressive solution for travel that will help conserve the planet, incorporating cutting edge technology and the efforts of bright, forward-thinking minds.

We protect and conserve through progressing technology and evolving how we think about our actions and their impact.

In short, rail’s progress is less about the ‘disruption’ you hear from Silicon Valley, and more about adding seamless convenience that considers people and place. Teams on the ground have become partners with the communities they serve, and designers and planners have long learned to respect nature – both at its most fierce and at its most vulnerable.

Look, for example, at the ingenuity of teams seeking to protect the endangered hazel dormouse populations in Morecambe, linking their fledgling groups together soon thanks to a specially-designed railway bridge.

It’s right we take time and effort to protect these tiny creatures: their population has halved in the last 20 years. Imagine we said the same about dogs, or cats – or even people. It is a shocking statistic, and those involved in this project should be proud of the work they’re doing to turn this trend around.

We could also consider the smart work of engineers in Scotland, whose methodologies meant they were able to brave the harshness of Storm Arwen and its aftermath, having pre-built a bridge at Lynebeg and sliding it into place over the railway – respecting nature and working in and around it, rather than just digging it up and blocking routes unnecessarily. We all know this method is a smart way of doing things, but it’s rare we could see a technique so tested, and pay off quite so well.

Meanwhile HS2 has announced the first boring machine in the Midlands is up and running – it’s digging carefully under protected woodland as we speak. The first of its kind for the region’s rail section it will, in true hare and tortoise fashion, also be the first tunnel boring machine on the project to finish its journey. Again, another example of high technology playing its part to protect what we have long cherished.

Of course there’s the more political type of conservation and progressiveness – although in this day and age, I’m sure both sides of the political spectrum would like to say they are on the side of progress, and it is the other side that is conserving old ideas!

Jokes aside, I’m in no doubt the industry welcomes Louise Haigh in her new position as shadow transport secretary. The Sheffield MP is certainly arriving at an interesting time, stepping up to the helm as Jim McMahon becomes shadow environment secretary. Our piece proves that she is already bringing humour to the role – built, however, on a record of hard parliamentary work.

It will be interesting to see how she and secretary of state for transport, Grant Shapps, will clash over their despatch boxes.

No matter your political persuasion, I’m sure you agree rail can only benefit from any spirited debate amongst government-level decision makers – and following the somewhat heated reception of the Integrated Rail Plan by the North, recently, I’m in no doubt the debate will be spirited.

The reality is, of course, we need both sides to fight for rail’s green-spirited vision of innovative connectivity, whilst keeping each other’s policies in check to preserve those things our industry has already worked so hard to accomplish.

Have a great week,

Conrad Emmett

Conrad writes for Rail Business Daily and Rail Insider. His background includes everything from media and comms for a tier one contractor to regularly interviewing top dealmakers for Yorkshire Business Insider. With roots as a senior reporter in the regional press, his other bylines range from Yorkshire Post to Empire magazine.


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