Companies across the West Midlands are benefiting from the HS2 infrastructure project, ahead of its arrival in 2026, by accessing tailored funding streams to grow their businesses, delivering new jobs across the region.
The West Midlands Combined Authority’s HS2 Growth Strategy was created to ensure the region is placed to maximise the benefits accruing from the high-speed rail project. A key part of this strategy is access to finance, enabling businesses to invest in the capabilities required to work with HS2, which will contribute to the strategy’s targets – an additional £14bn increase in GVA and 104,000 jobs.
The Business Growth Fund, run by Birmingham City Council, has already helped more than 500 SMEs to grow their businesses; at the end of 2018 the fund had generated £40m of private sector investment, creating 1600 jobs, and increasing GVA by £100m.
The Rail Supply Growth Fund, which is managed by Finance Birmingham, is another fund allowing West Midlands businesses to grow their capabilities and capacity. The fund has supported Coventry based Penso Group, with a £2m loan to accelerate the innovation and production of their revolutionary composite design of a train door, and Fenix TS, which is located in Stratford Upon Avon, to develop and bring a new innovation rail depot signalling system to the UK, creating an additional 20 jobs.
Industry leader accreditation
Independent waste management group, CSG, will look to expand its services to the rail industry after passing requirements administrated by the Rail Industry Suppliers Qualification Scheme. Antony Gerken, permitting and compliance manager, said: “After registering with RISQS, CSG created a series of policies and procedures to be in-line with railway work requirements and were audited to ensure the systems in place were compliant. This acknowledgement means our procedures meet with all the requirements instructed by RISQS and are robust enough to allow us to work track-side.
“Typically, we service pumps, but also provide tank cleaning, waste removal and installations of plants track-side. Under direction from the operator, we can work with the lines still open, which is a great benefit to our clients.”
Neil Richards, CSG managing director, added: “This accreditation means we will be able to further expand our services, demonstrating our commitment to expansion and our resilience in a tough market. Key members of the team have taken the time to develop their knowledge of the rail industry to ensure the best policies and procedures are in place to handle this waste collection and disposal safely and responsibly.
“As a business, it shows that we have the right people, with the technical expertise, to identify opportunities and take advantage of them.”
Bombardier goes 3D
Stratasys has announced that German-based manufacturer Bombardier Transportation will utilise the large-scale industrial-grade Stratasys F900 3D Printer as part of its operations in the DACH region. The manufacturer will produce final end-use rail parts, as well as manufacturing tools and prototypes for trains and trams across German-speaking countries.
“The Stratasys F900 3D Printer allows us to widen our service offering in such a way that we are now able to 3D print large spare parts, customised rail parts and manufacturing tools – all in-house and on-demand,” comments André Bialoscek, Head of Vehicle Physical Integration Hennigsdorf, Bombardier.
Core to the choice of Stratasys was the F900 3D Printer’s large build tray leveraging the unique properties of ULTEM™ 9085 resin material. Its high strength-to-weight ratio and flame-smoke-toxicity rating make it ideal for production applications and a popular choice among customers within the transport industry for achieving compliance to the Rail Standard EN45545-2.
The 3D printed rail parts produced by Bombardier Transportation will primarily support the specific production demands of German, Swiss and Austrian rail and tram companies – strengthening the company’s ability to maintain, produce and replace train and tram parts quickly and cost-effectively.
Building stronger links
The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at the University of Birmingham has signed co-operation agreements with two organisations based in Serbia to strengthen ties with the rail industry across South and East Europe. BCRRE, who recently integrated the Rail Alliance into its activities, signed the agreements with the University of Belgrade Faculty of Transport and Traffic Engineering and with the Rail Cluster for South-East Europe (RCSEE).
The agreements set out plans for how BCRRE, Rail Alliance, the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Engineering – University of Belgrade (FTTE), and RCSEE, will work together on collaborative railway research and innovation projects. Alex Burrows, Managing Director of the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education and the Rail Alliance pointed out that these agreements really mark the start of an exciting period of collaboration between the Universities of Birmingham and Belgrade: “We are hugely excited to be working with the University of Belgrade and the Rail Cluster for South-East Europe to strengthen our links in this region of Europe,” he added.
Dragoljub Rajic, Operational Manager of Rail Cluster for South-East Europe highlighted the importance of this type of co-operation: “We see this agreement with BCRRE and Rail Alliance as very important bridge for the further transfer of knowledge and technologies, exchanging information and making new business opportunities for members of both associations.”
£65 million contract
Balfour Beatty has been awarded a £65 million contract to operate and maintain 21 of Network Rail’s seasonal treatment multi-purpose vehicles (MPV) across the South of England, Anglia and the London North Western (LNW) rail route.
The five-year contract will see Balfour Beatty support the continued reliability of the railway network, providing a range of vital track treatment operations and helping to reduce disruption to the travelling public throughout autumn and winter.
Greater diversity needed
In May Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani called on the rail industry to improve the diversity of the sector, and ensure women have access to the fulfilling jobs, pay and progression offered by the industry. Speaking at the annual Women in Rail awards, the minister made clear in a speech that statistics which suggest women only make up five per cent of train drivers shows much more needs to be done if we want to make the best use of available talent and achieve our country’s ambitions.
With the industry needing 50,000 extra employees by 2033, Minister Ghani has called for a culture-change to create more diverse teams in response to this gap.
Best for compensation
Greater Anglia rail passengers enjoy one of the most efficient delay compensation schemes in the UK, latest figures have revealed. Greater Anglia closed over 326,000 claims between April and December 2018, 99.5 per cent of which were dealt with within the 20-day target period, according to data from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
In 2018, Greater Anglia introduced a faster compensation system which remembers the customer’s details, season ticket information and refund preferences. One customer said on Twitter: “From submitting my complaint it took Greater Anglia only six minutes to refund me.”
Dedicated UK manufacturing line opens
Siemens Mobility Limited has announced the introduction of a new dedicated manufacturing line for its Sitras ASG25 equipment, the company’s air-insulated 25 kV switchgear for AC traction power supply. Although initially developed in Germany, the system has been substantially re-engineered to meet the needs of the UK and will be manufactured at the company’s plant in Hebburn on Tyneside.
Commenting on the manufacturing programme, Shaun Cooper Managing Director of Rail Electrification for
Siemens Mobility in the UK said: “This development is another great example of our commitment to localisation, with benefits not only to our customers but also the UK’s wider industry supply chain.”
Vivarail, designers and manufacturers of the Class 230 trains, and hydrogen fuel cell specialists Arcola Energy, have announced a long-term collaboration. Working together the companies will develop a hydrogen/battery hybrid train. The proof of concept train is likely to begin testing at Vivarail’s main manufacturing facility in late 2019/early 2020 and will be based on the technology already developed for unit 230002, Vivarail’s battery train.
Adopt a station
A new community group led by the Jewellery Quarter Business Improvement District (JQBID) aims to bring a new lease of life to the Jewellery Quarter Station in Birmingham. Through a range of projects and activities and with support from West Midlands Railway, the group has set out to improve the attractiveness of the station, making it a more welcoming and friendly place for visitors, residents and workers.
The JQBID becomes the first Business Improvement District in the UK to formally adopt a station and is currently on the lookout for volunteers and sponsors to join in with their plans.