Paul May­nard

Rail Min­is­ter writes for RAIL on the need to im­prove rail ex­ports

Rail (UK) - - Front Page - Rail Min­is­ter PAUL MAY­NARD de­liv­ered a key­note speech at the re­cent Mid­dle East Rail Ex­hi­bi­tion and Con­fer­ence. In this ar­ti­cle for RAIL, he reprises his mes­sage that the UK can be both pro­moter and ben­e­fi­ciary in im­proved links with the re­gion

“Del­e­gates and vis­i­tors were par­tic­u­larly struck by the am­bi­tion of our rail pro­gramme in Bri­tain.”

BRI­TAIN has a long his­tory as a global ex­porter. From tex­tiles in the early In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion to tele­vi­sion pro­grammes to­day, Bri­tish in­no­va­tion and know-how has al­ways found a will­ing market abroad. But per­haps our great­est ex­port of all has been the railway.

Af­ter the first public steam railway opened be­tween Stock­ton and Dar­ling­ton in 1825, it didn’t take long for Bri­tain to start sell­ing its new tech­nol­ogy to other coun­tries. Within decades, Bri­tish know-how had built new railway lines right around the world.

Rail tech­nol­ogy may have moved on since the pi­o­neer­ing Vic­to­rian era, but the op­por­tu­ni­ties to­day for our railway in­dus­try to ex­pand into global mar­kets re­main undi­min­ished.

That is why, at the start of March, I trav­elled to Dubai for the Mid­dle East Rail Ex­hi­bi­tion and Con­fer­ence, where I de­liv­ered a key­note speech and met with a host of in­flu­en­tial re­gional lead­ers, in­clud­ing the Prime Min­is­ter of the United Arab Emi­rates.

My mes­sage was clear. Bri­tain has a huge amount to of­fer to Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries as they de­velop their rail net­works. We can pro­vide the world’s best rail de­sign­ers and project man­agers. We are used to de­liv­er­ing projects in com­plex en­vi­ron­ments, and im­prov­ing rail per­for­mance through new tech­nol­ogy. And we have proven ex­pe­ri­ence in bring­ing to­gether public and pri­vate sec­tors to form suc­cess­ful rail part­ner­ships.

Cru­cially, we op­er­ate one of the world’s most in­ten­sively used rail­ways. And al­though much of our in­fra­struc­ture is be­tween a cen­tury and two cen­turies old, we main­tain one of the best safety records, too.

Like Bri­tain, the Gulf is go­ing through a pe­riod of in­ten­sive rail in­vest­ment. The Dubai Metro ex­ten­sion, which Bri­tish firms are help­ing de­velop, will give the UAE the longest fully-au­to­mated metro in the world when the net­work is com­plete in two years. By 2021, it will be car­ry­ing 600,000 peo­ple a day. I was cer­tainly im­pressed by the Metro when I trav­elled on it my­self dur­ing the visit.

The Eti­had Rail Phase 2 is ex­pected to be go­ing ahead again soon, af­ter de­vel­op­ment was paused a year ago. This line will stretch west­wards to the Saudi Ara­bian bor­der and east­wards to the bor­der with Oman, with branches serv­ing Mus­saf­fah, Khal­ifa and Dubai. Bri­tish firms are also sup­port­ing the con­struc­tion of metro sys­tems in Saudi Ara­bia, and our de­sign­ers have worked on sta­tions for the Saudi Hara­main High Speed Rail net­work.

It has been es­ti­mated that around $200 bil­lion (£160bn) is cur­rently be­ing in­vested in the re­gion’s railway. The fact that both the UK and the UAE are ex­pand­ing their rail sys­tems at the same time gives us a shared in­ter­est and com­mon ex­pe­ri­ence, so it was hugely en­cour­ag­ing to see a strong Bri­tish pres­ence at the Ex­hi­bi­tion.

I par­tic­u­larly en­joyed vis­it­ing the smaller com­pa­nies in the UK pav­il­ion. Th­ese in­cluded AATi, which has a long his­tory of sup­ply­ing pedes­trian ser­vices to Lon­don Un­der­ground, and Opin­sta and ByteTo­ken, which were show­cas­ing their cus­tomer ser­vice and tick­et­ing prod­ucts. I also at­tended the sign­ing of a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing be­tween Uni­part Rail and the Ara­bian Railway Com­pany.

UK com­pa­nies large and small have the ex­per­tise to play a big role in the de­vel­op­ment of rail in the Mid­dle East, and I am glad that on be­half of the Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment I was able to pro­mote their prod­ucts and bring them to the at­ten­tion of local de­ci­sion mak­ers.

Del­e­gates and vis­i­tors were par­tic­u­larly struck by the am­bi­tion of our rail pro­gramme in Bri­tain. I was able to tell them about Cross­rail and HS2, and the re­build­ing of im­por­tant sta­tions such as Manch­ester Vic­to­ria, Birm­ing­ham New Street and Read­ing.

Many of those I met were in­ter­ested in the Bri­tish ex­pe­ri­ence

of rail pri­vati­sa­tion. As projects in the Mid­dle East start to be de­liv­ered with more di­verse fund­ing mod­els, we are well placed to share our ex­per­tise, and for UK Ex­port Fi­nance to sup­port the in­ter­na­tional ex­pan­sion of our rail in­dus­try.

I spoke about our plans to train thou­sands of rail en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sion­als at the Na­tional Skills Academy for Rail and the Na­tional Col­lege for High Speed Rail, and how grad­u­ates of th­ese in­sti­tu­tions would not only help build our railway, but also rail schemes around the world. In­deed, we are now work­ing with other coun­tries with plans to set up their own skills and tech­ni­cal acad­e­mies.

Like all the Bri­tish ex­hibitors, I came away from Dubai en­thused by the op­por­tu­ni­ties on of­fer, and con­fi­dent that we are well placed to take ad­van­tage of them.

The Rail De­liv­ery Group has set a tough tar­get of dou­bling UK rail ex­ports by 2025. Con­sid­er­ing the growth of our railway at home, and the am­bi­tions of our rail in­dus­try glob­ally, there is ab­so­lutely no rea­son why we can­not achieve it.


Dur­ing his trip to Dubai, Rail Min­is­ter Paul May­nard vis­ited com­pa­nies work­ing on projects in the re­gion as he looks for the UK market to grow its ex­port business.


Rail Min­is­ter Paul May­nard de­liv­ers his speech in Dubai.

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