RFG Summer Group Meeting report

RFG was delighted to welcome members to its  Summer Group Meeting 2019, held during the  Multimodal show on 18 June at the NEC Birmingham. It was well attended and we would like to thank everyone for taking the time to come along, and to Clarion Events for their ongoing support.

The event began with an open table networking lunch and an announcement by RFG member PD Ports. Geoff Lippitt, Business Development Director at PD Ports, unveiled their new twice-daily, dedicated rail freight service between Teesport and Doncaster, on behalf of Containerships and major retailer IKEA. Carl Kent from GB Railfreight described the innovative train planning work undertaken to deliver this service.  It was very well received by the audience and RFG was delighted to see more of its members collaborating on innovative projects to encourage more goods onto the railway.

The session then formally opened with an introduction and welcome from Maggie Simpson, Director General of the RFG. She said Multimodal presented a fantastic opportunity to bring the industry together and welcomed the opportunity to host a meeting during the event.

She then presented an in-depth Policy Review where she addressed the key agenda items including: latest ORR stats for freight that showed a 3% rise in freight volumes year-on-year with construction up 5%; latest infrastructure upgrades, such as at Buxton sidings and the Port of Felixstowe; the Williams Review; Network Rail’s transformation programme and restructure; how High Speed 2 remains a fundamentally important scheme and an opportunity to release freight capacity across the network; and HS1 as an important artery despite some possible huge access charge increases looming.

David Gwynne, Head of Mergers and Acquisitions, Associated British Ports (ABP), kicked off the main agenda of guest speakers. He spoke about how ports were evolving to become focused on much greater use of the rail freight, supporting the growth of the wider UK economy. As coal traffic switches to intermodal, construction and biomass, he said on-port facilities were adapting to support those new markets.

David Cross and Steve Freeman from iPort Rail gave an in-depth overview of this exciting and independent, inland rail freight terminal. Steve spoke about the challenges involved with the project and the journey the company had been on. David said that despite the site being so new, its facilities were already driving demand with new opportunities coming on line. He spoke about the importance in rail freight of being bold enough to develop facilities for the sector to meet modern demand from end users.

Gary Hunter, Head of Business Development, Elastacloud, spoke about how data science is changing the way companies view their assets. The potential of data is huge and he outlined how it was driving new strategies to drive hidden cost savings and predict new trends.  He gave some practical examples from other sectors where such approaches were delivering significant cost savings.

Andy Page and Pat Smedley from Business on the Move gave an update on the development of the new Global Edition of the popular logistics-based board game, and highlighted the sponsorship opportunities which are available.

After the break Peter Sargant, Head of Rail Development, West Midlands Rail Executive, introduced the company and described how the economy in the region was developing.  He went on to outline the key elements of their rail investment strategy noting that the region is important centre for freight and in-land terminals.

Mark Keighley from the Rail Operations Group spoke about the future of small-consignment rail freight. He introduced ROG’s new business Orion, which aims to move rail freight in passenger vehicles, with significant investment in rolling stock and services.

Andy Cotton, Director at Powerflow Ltd – BG of Great Britain, then tackled the mounting issue over reducing emissions from diesel engines and how standard servicing falls short. He said small changes can have a big impact, saving the environment and companies a lot of money through proper functioning

Maggie Simpson then closed the meeting, thanking everyone for attending and to the speakers for providing such interesting presentations with in-depth and thought-provoking content.