Another hectic, but very interesting day at Railtex. Today I went straight to the exhibitors, as I’d only had time to see a small handful yesterday with so much going on at the Knowledge Hub and Seminar Theatre, not to mention the Networking Reception, which provided a relaxed and sociable end to the day, with everyone enjoying their drinks and canapes alongside the excellent live entertainment.
My first stop was Alstom’s stand where I was able to learn more about their new hydrogen trains, codenamed ‘Breeze’. These will be a conversion of the existing Class 321 trains and will create a clean energy train for the modern age, emitting only water. It is exciting to see some of the biggest names in the industry bringing technology that will help protect the environment for future generations, and I’m looking forward to exploring more clean energy solutions from exhibitors tomorrow.
I also got to check out EAO’s Passenger Interface, a wireless USB phone charging system which fits onto seats with an iBeacon seat position transmitter to interface with mobile apps. The technology is amazing and can charge any kind of modern smart phone. The iBeacon in each Passenger Interface also transmits a code to the passenger’s travel app, while the cloud translates the code into a carriage and seat number, making seat reservations easier to track and helping make passengers’ journeys more connected than ever.
Today also saw the introduction of Railtex’s brand new feature – the Future Focus Conference. I spent some time at the Conference to watch the ‘Digital Journey’ panel discussion, where some of the industry’s specialists talked about the challenges and opportunities of implementing digital technology on the UK network. Having the panel open for Q&A’s allowed the audience to get involved in the conference and it definitely felt like a successful debut.
After browsing around plenty more product innovations and taking many brochures, business cards and free sweets (of course!), it was time to sit down and take in the Rail Minister’s keynote address. He spoke on several topics he deemed most important to the future success of the industry, including the lack of and need for digital skills and the requirement for 50,000 new workers by 2033 to address the growing numbers of retiring workers. He also addressed topics such as the ‘boom and bust’ model of funding and how to smooth out the process for supply chain companies, as well as the environmental impact of diesel trains, in a lively Q&A session.
Following the keynote address the Rail Minister was taken for a guided tour of the exhibition, meeting representatives from a range of organisations including British Steel, EAO Ltd Garrandale Rail, Hitachi and Knorr-Bremse, amongst others, discussing the latest product innovations and developments on show across the three days and how they can be utilised on the UK’s railways.
After another hectic day it’s time to unwind. I think an early night is required to do it all again tomorrow! There’s plenty to look forward to for the final day of the show tomorrow, including keynotes from Network Rail’s Stuart Calvert and Labour MP Andy McDonald at the Seminar Theatre; HS2’s Robin Lapish discussing supply chain opportunities at the Knowledge Hub and a dedicated recruitment seminar and panel discussion hosted by the Railway Gazette. There’s also the small matter of the rest of the 400+ exhibitors I’m keen to look around. Wish me luck!