Global rail projects offer British opportunitiesRail is arguably the transport of the future, bringing with it economic, environmental, speed and comfort benefits. Moving freight by rail is greener and more cost-effective, avoiding traffic congestion and carbon emissions. And with more and more of the world's population living in urban areas, travel is essential for business and leisure purposes.
The majority of major transport infrastructure projects currently under construction across the globe are in the rail sector. And with the UK's expertise in the rail sector recognised worldwide, these global rail infrastructure projects offer major commercial opportunities to firms working in every part of the UK rail industry, from planning, design, project management, construction and maintenance to financing, regulation, train control and operations.
High value opportunities
UKTI's HVO (high value opportunities) programme identifies opportunities offering the most value to the UK. A large number of these projects involve rail. Global projects currently offering contracts for UK firms include the UAE, which plans to link all seven of the Emirates by rail. There is also the expansion of the metro system in Brazil, ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Malaysia's Klang Valley MRT project is a proposed three-line 150km system around Greater Kuala Lumpur city. Oman is planning to build its first rail system over the next 10 years, with a project spend valued at $2.2billion. Russia, meanwhile, is running an extensive investment programme to modernise its rail infrastructure, including significant station upgrades in Moscow. Hong Kong is looking to expand its rail network by 55 percent and in Singapore there are £30billion plans to expand the MRT system by 2020. Major rail projects in Denmark, India, Taiwan, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia also present numerous opportunities for British firms.
Heritage and experience
The UK's own rail heritage is renowned. The country has one of the most complex and intensive rail networks in the world, carrying around 1.3 billion passenger journeys every year and 400,000 tonnes of freight every day. Innovative developments continue, with substantial Government support for investment in both existing infrastructure and ambitious new projects.
We have a very capable, experienced and sophisticated rail industry in the UK that has been developed using a number of different structures. UK expertise is in demand in railways right around the world, covering disciplines such as engineering, construction, operations, structuring, regulatory feasibility and so on. Equally, given cultural and language connections, many countries often look to the UK for expertise.
Nicky Brailey at Wiltshire-based Knorr-Bremse Rail Systems (UK) is clear about British product appeal. He said: "What we remain very good at here in the UK is innovation and we find that emerging markets such as China want the very latest and very best in terms of technology and performance."
The company has designed and manufactured a system known as EP2002 which is now sold throughout the global Knorr-Bremse Group. EP2002 is an advanced mechatronic train brake control system which, whilst being much smaller and lighter than conventional brake control systems, delivers superbly efficient distributed brake control across the entire train. This system continues to be enormously successful for Knorr-Bremse in growth markets such as the Middle East and China where it has become almost the 'standard' brake control system on metro trains.
UKTI works closely with the Railway Industry Association (RIA), the body that represents UK-based railway suppliers to the world's railways. Together, UKTI and RIA provide a range of export support services, including events, briefing meetings and distribution of market and export opportunity information. With global coverage, these include seminars, trade missions to and from the UK, and organising UK industry participation at overseas trade fairs.
Not so long ago I met Allan Morgan, UK Business Director at Bombardier Rail Control Solutions (BTRCS) in Plymouth. This followed a visit to them by our UKTI inward investment team. BTRCS is developing exciting new products including the EBI Track 400 coded track circuit which is used to report the position of trains to the signalling system. This exciting new product was developed with close collaboration of the local university via the Knowledge Transfer Partnership programme and has considerable export sales potential with interest received from as far afield as Korea and India. Closer to home EBI Track 400 is planned to be deployed within the Thameslink project.
Combining experience in the UK with successful delivery of projects overseas, British companies have unrivalled expertise to offer the burgeoning number of rail schemes being planned around the world.
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