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HomePeopleLord Hendy opens Connected Places Summit: "Future of rail secure but we've...

Lord Hendy opens Connected Places Summit: “Future of rail secure but we’ve got to fix it”

The Chair of Network Rail says he has “no fear” that the railway will be useful in the next several decades but has stressed that how it works needs to be fixed. The comments were made by Peter, Lord Hendy, of Richmond Hill, opening the inaugural Connected Places Summit in London.

“The railway has been extraordinarily adaptable ever since it was invented,” he added. “It survived two world wars, survived the growth of the mass car ownership, it survived all sorts of translations of shifting populations around the country and taking into the cities.

“So I’ve got no fear that the railway will not continue to be useful in the next three or four decades of the 21st century. And indeed that’s evidenced from the fact that the politicians are vying with each other to promise unbelievable amounts of money to invest in the railway to get better connectivity.

“You won’t find a political party who doesn’t want to invest in the railway in this or any other election so I think the railways have got a secure future, what we do need to do is to fix how it works because it works very badly.”

Lord Hendy was speaking today (Wednesday) on the opening day of a two-day event at 22 Bishopsgate, the City of London’s tallest skyscraper. The event features interactive content, live project showcases, inspiring thought leadership and opportunities to connect with peers from technology, transport, mobility, cities, academia, and government.

Speaking in conversation with Connected Places Catapult’s Chief Executive Erika Lewis, Lord Hendy spoke of using technology to improve the rail fares system and customer service; safety, and telecoms.

He also reflected on his time at Transport for London (TfL), where he was previously Commissioner. He said: “The great thing about TfL was that actually everything was my fault, if it went wrong and it wasn’t the mayor’s fault. We couldn’t have an argument between people with different contracts if the Northern line didn’t work, it was our fault and we had to fix it.

“The railway is not like that, in fact Andrew Haines, my brilliant Chief Executive, and I frequently observed that actually over 30 years, the culture of the railways, is that there’s always somebody else to blame, there’s always somebody else’s fault. It’s really not good enough and it’s not good enough for performance sake.

“So will it evolve to meet the changing demands of the economy and society? Yes, it will. How it’s organised needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed rapidly and we are very committed to doing that because in the end you want somebody who takes account of the contribution that the railway should make to the British economy and society and is responsible for the performance of it on a day-to-day basis. Who owns bits of it is actually secondary as it was at TfL.”

Across the two days, 220 speakers will address the Connected Places Summit, which is being attended by more than 650 delegates each day in person, with over 1000 more watching online.

The Summit is hosted by Connected Places Catapult, the UK’s innovation accelerator for transport, cities and place leadership, and brings together the disciplines of roads, rail, aviation and ports alongside housing and the art of place leadership. The event is supported by Innovate UK with the Department for Transport as strategic partner and DNV as the headline partner.

High-profile presenters speaking on day two (Thursday) include Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission which recently published its five-yearly assessment of the UK’s future infrastructure needs; and Transport for All’s chief executive Caroline Stickland who will speak about the need for transport innovation in cities to be inclusive to everyone.

A panel discussion will also be hosted by Connected Places Catapult’s Chair Professor Greg Clark CBE will see the Department for Transport’s Chief Scientific Advisor Sarah Sharples and Heathrow Airport’s Chief Operating Officer Emma Gilthorpe discuss ways to accelerate cross-sector innovation.

Alan Peters, Ecosystem Director, Rail & Stations, at Connected Places Catapult, is involved in sessions on the inclusive innovation in rail, the decarbonisation of the rail network by 2050, and investing in new supply chain innovation.

Speaking to Rail Business Daily prior to the event, he said: “We have identified some key topic areas that we feel warrant greater attention. The first of these is the challenge of harnessing innovation to make the rail network more accessible and inclusive for all. It is something that everyone agrees need to be done, but it is often very challenging to fund this in the face of competing commercial pressures.

“We will build on this first session with a dedicated session sharing outputs and learnings from the Station Innovation Zone programme before finishing with a discussion session on the hurdles around transitioning to a net zero railway. Embracing innovation ensures that the railway sector can meet sustainability targets while maintaining efficiency and reliability in its operations. We will explore if a more regional approach can help aid this transition.”

To watch the event online, and to see more detail of who is speaking and when, click here.

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