Keeping the rail sector on trackWhen a delegation of 22 Brazilian rail specialists made a special stop off to Derby as part of a three-stop European tour it was apparent that the local rail industry remains firmly on the global map. For over 100 years making trains has been the main industry in Derby: the importance of the rail industry to UK PLC, the supply chain, growth, jobs and wealth of the East Midlands economy is vital; almost 20 per cent of Derby’s industry is rail, with an estimated five thousand people employed in the sector in engineering, design, manufacturing and consultancy.
UK manufacturing and the rail industry has had a bad rap of late with a wealth of negative stories across all media about the demise of the train making industry in Derby. But there are opportunities for British firms to develop and grow: The domestic market is important and there are huge projects on the horizon to increase rail capacity, electrify lines, improve station access, upgrade the freight network and generally improve journey times and reliability.
However the UK market is finite and there is only so much work to go around, while overseas there are markets that are booming and the UK is one of the main places to which they turn, as our experience and expertise are well respected around the world.
At UK Trade & Investment we are doing what we can to maintain a proud British heritage and keep the train-industry buoyant by helping firms land contracts abroad. I’ve just returned from InnoTrans, in Berlin, the world’s number one showcase for rail products and technology. With 26 halls of exhibitions and 100,000 visitors it provides a great opportunity for UK rail firms to make contacts and source new partners.
UKTI hosted 47 UK companies who exhibited a diverse range of products and services from all sub-sectors of the industry. It’s a really economical way for firms to meet potential clients, undertake research, keep up to date with the latest advances in rail technology and meet with country specialists from all over the world.
Among the firms attending were software and technology company DeltaRail, based in Pride Park, Derby. They employ 250 people to produce signalling control and condition monitoring systems that help to increase capacity and reduce cost on the railway. Their International Channel Sales Manager, Tom Ross, found it a great opportunity to increase awareness of their products and their benefits.
Key markets UKTI are currently focused on include Turkey and Poland. I visited Turkey in 2010 with a group of eight East Midlands’ firms and this revealed the huge opportunities out there: from 2009 to 2023 the Turkish government is building 10,000km of high speed track and 4,000km of conventional track with the associated infrastructure and rolling stock; work worth USD350 billion.
To capitalise on this we took stand space at Turkey’s Eurasia rail exhibition in 2011 and 2012 and introduced local UK supply chain companies to the market with a view to them establishing strategic partnerships with Turkish companies. Turkey is a long haul market and it’s important firms take the time to understand it properly. But from my experience firms are winning business. We’re taking another group to Turkey in March 2013 and it will be bigger and better than before; open to rail companies from across the UK and some construction companies too.
Poland is another market we are paying a lot of attention to because of their ongoing programme to upgrade their current network. There are opportunities to provide innovative products and services as well as help with continued servicing and maintenance.
The delegation of Brazilians in Derby, which included the president of the National Rail Freight Association, Rodrigo Vilaca, and the president of the Brazilian Railway Industries Association, Vicente Abate, left Derby with a really positive view of the local rail industry, having visited a state-of-the-art control centre for Network Rail, training company TQ Catalis and software and technology company Delta Rail, and we hope it will lead to further meetings and business.
Exporting in the rail sector takes time. The key is to put the work in today so that tomorrow you have projects to fall back on. And we are doing what we can to help.
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