Strategic Vision for Rail

Setting out a vision for our railways, including a new way of operating train and track and changes to the franchising system.

  • the next phase for rail with a new way of operating train and track – bringing them closer together
  • a railway fit for the 21st century and the huge volumes of passengers it now carries
  • government to explore opportunities to increase railway capacity to drive economic and housing growth
  • modernising the railway by bringing forward digital technologies to dramatically improve services for passengers

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling today (29 November 2017) set out a new vision for our railways, including plans to end the operational divide between track and train and an evolution of the franchising system.

The proposals – contained in the government’s Strategic vision for rail – also include commitments to expand the railway network to boost housing and economic growth, and deliver major passenger benefits – including rolling out improved compensation schemes for passengers.

The sweeping proposals aimed at creating joined up teams running track and train will make the railway more reliable for passengers and ensure that it works as one to deliver for its customers.

The reforms build on the Secretary of State’s speech to Policy Exchange in December 2016 and the recommendations of the McNulty and Shaw reports.

Building on Network Rail’s recent devolution of infrastructure management to route-based businesses, the plans include complementary changes to the franchising system to ensure that the railway is prepared to manage the challenges of the future, while maintaining the railway infrastructure in public ownership.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:

The last few years have seen massive growth on Britain’s railways. This industry has reversed decades of decline under British Rail, delivered new investment and new trains, and doubled the number of passengers.

But now we need to build on that success by building a new model for the 2020s and beyond, one more able to deal with the huge rise in passenger numbers and the challenges of an increasingly congested network.

Rail passengers deserve a more reliable, more efficient service – and I will deliver it by ending the one-size-fits-all approach of franchising and bringing closer together the best of the public and private sector.

Changes to the franchising system include:

  • the first of the new generation of long-term regional partnerships on the East Coast Mainline, which will be introduced from 2020 – the East Coast Partnership between the public sector and a private partner will be operated by a single management, under a single brand and overseen by a single leader
  • rolling out joint teams running day to day operations across the South Eastern network with plans to introduce a new Alliance Director, responsible for a joint team operating the trains and tracks
  • introducing a joint team to run the East Midlands franchise following next year’s franchise competition
  • introducing smaller train companies, ensuring that every line, station and passenger is central to each train operator’s strategy – this includes splitting up the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise in 2021, and consulting on a new West of England franchise

The Strategic vision for rail also commits to explore opportunities to restore capacity lost under the Beeching and British Rail cuts of the 1960s and 1970s by identifying new schemes that unlock new housing or economic growth and offer good value for money.

The government is already planning to reopen the railway line from Oxford to Cambridge and our new development programme will identify new connections and lines that were closed to passengers by British Rail, as part of finding and funding future rail schemes which offer good value.

At the heart of the new strategy is a commitment to improve passenger experience across the network and take advantage of new technology to improve services. This includes major changes that will extend passenger rights – including compensation for passengers when trains are more than 15 minutes late. We are also supporting the introduction of a Rail Ombudsman to ensure all passengers are treated fairly.

The vision also pledges to introduce digital rail – new technologies that have the potential to reduce crowding and improve train punctuality for passengers – across more of the country. This includes funding to develop schemes on the Transpennine Route, on the South East Route and East London Line, and on the Moorgate Branch. It also reinforces the important role for freight on the rail network to support the British economy and environment.

More detail on franchising changes

East Coast Partnership

The East Coast Partnership will be responsible for both intercity trains and track operations. It will be set up over the next 2 years as a partnership between the public and private sectors, with responsibility for the lines between London, Yorkshire, North East and Scotland.

The private partner will have a leading role in defining future plans for route infrastructure.

The government and the Office of Rail and Road will continue to ensure that robust protections for freight and other passenger operators are maintained.

Further details about the new East Coast Partnership will be set out in the coming months. The government is currently in discussions with the existing operator of the East Coast franchise, Stagecoach-Virgin, to ensure the needs of passengers and taxpayers are being in met in the short term whilst laying the foundations to bring forward the reforms in full under a long-term competitively procured contract.

South Eastern and East Midland

The government is today publishing the invitation to tender for the new franchise on the South Eastern network between London and the Kent coast, which will be headed by a new Alliance director, with a joint team operating the trains and the tracks on a day to day basis.

We will publish an invitation for tender in 2018 for the franchise on the Midland Mainline between London and Sheffield, which will also be operated by a joint team.

Great Western franchise consultation

consultation has been launched on the future of the Great Western franchise, including a proposal to create a new West of England franchise that would provide long-distance services between London, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall (including the Sleeper) together with regional and local services across the south-west.

To provide a period of stability before the franchise is next competed, the department will be asking FirstGroup, the current operator, for a proposal to continue operating the franchise until 2022.

More detail on expanding the network

The new development programme will identify opportunities to restore capacity lost to passengers under British Rail, as part of finding and funding future rail schemes which offer good value.

The government has already created one team to drive forward design, development and fund raising of East West Rail and work is due to start on the next phase of the route in 2018.

Other proposals that are in discussion as part of the new development programme include suburban lines around Bristol, a freight route that runs through Central Birmingham, the line from Okehampton to Exeter and from Blyth to Ashington. Proposals will need to demonstrate a strong business case where they are seeking government funding.

More detail on the Shaw and McNulty reports


In 2011 Sir Roy McNulty produced a report which identified that a greater alignment of the industry and uniting track and train was a key issue for the railway. One form of reunification he proposed was alliances between Network Rail and train operating companies, which could align teams to form a single operating unit that can work together on a day to day operational basis as well as planning work on the network.

McNulty said that there “needs to be better alignment of organisations and their incentives, particularly between Network Rail and train operating companies”.


In 2016 Nicola Shaw produced a report into the structure of Network Rail. She recommended that it should be a much more devolved structure. Placing maintenance and upgrades in the hands of local teams, who know how to best improve performance and efficiency.

Source  & Video: – 29th November 2017

Future manufacturing and infrastructure systems: apply for funds

Competition with up to £19 million for innovation projects and £16 million for business-graduate partnerships now open to UK organisations.

Innovate UK is to invest up to £19 million in innovation projects across the manufacturing and materials and infrastructure systems industry sectors.

You can apply in either area, depending on your idea. Your project will need to fit the competition scope and improve business growth and productivity or create export opportunities for at least one UK small to medium-sized enterprise (SME).

Additional funding of up to £16 million is being made available for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs), which help businesses to recruit a suitable graduate to work on an innovation project.

Innovations in infrastructure systems

The market for systems that ensure smart and resilient infrastructure is expanding.

It is driven by a global urban population that is growing by almost 60 million every year, and a demand for more adaptable infrastructure that is better integrated with social systems.

There is also £425 billion of planned UK public and private infrastructure investment through the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan 2016 to 2021. This will help to support disruptive ideas come to market more quickly.

Competition focus

We are looking for innovation projects in:

  • smart infrastructure, which adds intelligence to physical infrastructure or the design process and create improvements in wholelife cost and performance, or resilience, security and sustainability
  • urban living solutions that tackle the challenges people face in urban areas, improve user experience and lower costs
  • energy supply and systems, to improve the value, affordability and security, and reduce emissions
  • connected transport that moves people and goods more efficiently, and makes transport more secure, user-centric and accessible

The details

  • the competition is open, and the deadline for applications is 31 January 2018
  • projects should range from total costs of £25,000 to £3 million, and last between 3 months and 3 years
  • UK-based businesses of any size or research and technology organisations can lead a project
  • you could get up to 70% of your eligible project costs
  • there is a briefing event on 12 December 2017

Opportunities in manufacturing and materials

There is a huge opportunity for businesses working on manufactured products, materials and associated services.

The UK is the ninth largest producer in the world. We have an output of $247 billion, which accounts for 3% of global manufacturing output and 11% of the nation’s GVA (gross value added). It represents 50% of exports and 69% of business research and development.

New manufacturing technologies and materials can enable new types of products or services. This can grow UK manufacturing productivity, increase material efficiency and sustain our competitiveness in the long term.

Competition focus

We are aiming to encourage and broaden innovation in the manufacturing and materials sector. This may include:

  • developing more flexible and efficient processes
  • developing processes that enable faster and greater customisation of products
  • developing materials for ease of manufacture
  • addressing the manufacturing readiness of growing sectors
  • developing materials to targeted performance specifications
  • diversifying product and service lines
  • developing novel services or business models that open up new sources of revenue

It incorporates a wide range of manufacturing and materials technologies.

The details

  • the competition is open, and the deadline for applications is 31 January 2018
  • we expect projects to range between 6 months and 3 years. They should range in size from total costs of £50,000 to £2 million
  • UK-based businesses of any size or research and technology organisations can lead a project
  • you could get up to 70% of your eligible project costs
  • there is a briefing event on 12 December 2017

Applying for a KTP

There is up to £16 million available for businesses to set up KTPs across the 2 sector areas.

All disciplines and applications within infrastructure systems and manufacturing and materials will be considered for a KTP. That includes applications beyond the scope of the competitions.

The deadline to apply for a KTP is also 31 January 2018, but the application process is different. You should speak to your local knowledge adviser, who will help you to apply.


Manufacturing orders strongest for nearly 30 years

Growth in manufacturing output accelerated in the three months to November according to the latest monthly CBI Industrial Trends Survey.

Order books also continued to fill up. Total orders were, by a small margin, the strongest since August 1988, while export order books were the joint highest in more than 20 years.

The improvement in total order books was particularly marked in food & drink and chemicals, while export order books strengthened notably in chemicals, electronics and transport goods.

Output is expected to continue expanding in the three months to February, although at a more moderate pace.

Stocks were broadly adequate in the quarter to November, though the level of stocks was below the long-run average.

Expectations for price inflation were similar to recent months, around average.

Anna Leach, CBI Head of Economic Intelligence, said:

“UK manufacturers are once more performing strongly as global growth and the lower level of sterling continue to support demand. Output growth has picked up again, and export order books match the highest in more than 20 years.

“Nonetheless, uncertainty continues to hold back investment and cost pressures remain strong. Manufacturers will be hoping the Budget brings some relief from the business rates burden in particular.”

Key findings:

  • 28% of manufacturers reported total order books to be above normal, and 11% said they were below normal, giving a balance of +17%
  • 26% of firms said their export order books were above normal, and 6% said they were below normal, giving a rounded balance of +20% well above the long-run average of -18% (matched the previous series high in June 1995).
  • 40% of businesses said the volume of output over the past three months was up, and 12% said it was down, giving a balance of 28% above the long-run average of +4%
  • Manufacturers expect output to growth to accelerate in the coming quarter, with 27% predicting volumes to increase, and 14% expecting a decline, giving a rounded balance of +13%
  • 19% of companies expect average selling prices to increase in the coming three months, with only 2% predicting a decline, giving a balance of +17% – significantly above the long-run average of +2%
  • 12% of firms said their present stocks of finished goods are more than adequate, whilst 10% said they were less than adequate, giving a balance of +2% – below the long-run average (+13%)


The survey was conducted between 26th October and 14th November. 397 manufacturers responded.

Source: CBI, 21st November 2017

Sheffield Hallam graduate receives international recognition

A product design graduate from Sheffield Hallam University has received an international Honourable Mention Prize – the only student in the UK to achieve the accolade.

Ciara Little, who graduated with a Product Design degree on Monday, received the honour in the Product Design category of the Taiwan International Student Design Competition – a competition which sees more than 18,000 student entries from around 70 countries across 900 universities and colleges.

The Hallam student was one of just 27 entrants to receive recognition in the competition, and the only student from the UK.

Ciara′s project is A/B/O: Blood Bags; a blood type specific transfusion kit designed to prevent ′never events′ – where the wrong blood type is given to a patient, which can be fatal.


Ciara designed blood bags shaped like the letter corresponding to blood types A, B, O, AB, so that medical staff can quickly identify the correct bags as well as including a unique connection system which physically prevents the wrong blood type being transfused.

Ciara said: “It’s amazing to have received the Honourable Mention Prize, I wasn’t e

Professor David Swann, subject leader for product, furniture and interior, which is part of the University’s Sheffield Institute of Arts, said: “Ciara’s project is a simple but effective solution to potentially life-threatening incidents. We are thrilled that Ciara has received this honour, and the fact that she is the only UK student to have been successful is a wonderful achievement.”

For press information: Tim Ward in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 5220 or email


A pride of Lyons – New Appointment

Alan Lyons – co-founder of one of Sheffield’s most successful business networking platforms – has joined the AMRC to lead its network engagement strategy with the region’s small and medium sized manufacturers.

He will be complementing the work of Company Engagement Manager, Shirley Harrison, to raise the profile of the AMRC among a sector that is vital to rebalancing the UK economy and to the success of the city region.

A well-respected figure within the  business community,  Alan is tailor-made for the task. Vibrant, engaging, with a soft Irish brogue, he has been at the forefront of regional efforts to secure investment in – and the development of – Sheffield’s burgeoning advanced manufacturing sector for the last decade.

It was his behind-the-scenes role that helped smooth the way to a £63m investment in a 20,000 tonne press that kept Firth Rixson (now Arconic) headquartered in the city, with a state-of-the-art plant that provides key components for the aerospace industry.

Within two years Firth Rixson had signed a 10-year deal valued at more than $1bn with United Technologies Corporation to supply engine and system components for the UTC Propulsion & Aerospace Systems’ businesses Pratt & Whitney and UTC Aerospace Systems.

“That was one of my proudest achievements,” says Alan, who was part of the dialogue team in the formative years of Creative Sheffield, when Bob (now Sir Bob) Kerslake was at the helm.  “That and getting this role at the AMRC,” he chuckles, adding that it feels his career has been leading to this opportunity.

He knows the SME community in the region better than most. But he also knows this community is sometimes unaware of how open and receptive the AMRC is to working with local manufacturers.

“The AMRC is the jewel in the region’s crown,” says Alan. “But some manufacturers think it is far too expensive and exclusive a jewel for them to wear. My role is to change that perception and to show them that the skills and talents of the AMRC are available to all.”

That means starting a conversation with a sector which employs more than 80,000 highly skilled people in the patch. And few have a bigger gift for getting a conversation going than Alan.

The Lyons Den networking group he set up with manufacturing turnaround king, Kevin Parkin, is famous for its ‘craic’ (despite – or perhaps because of – Parkin’s jokes). It is a place where business cards are banned, but business relationships are built.

Parkin, best known for bringing Davy Markham back from the brink, is still a loyal friend and believes this latest incarnation can only spell good news for the AMRC and the region. “Alan doesn’t do pomp and ceremony. Like the AMRC he is too busy getting things done.”

A few days ago Juergen Maier – chair of the independent Industrial Digitalisation Review – said it was time for British manufacturing to rediscover its mojo.

Alan believes we never lost it. We just got bad at talking it up.

By combining the global reach and talents of the AMRC with the region’s aspirational manufacturing and digital communities, he believes we can do something really special in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster: we can rediscover our mojo, raise pride and ambition in the city region and create an irresistible magnet for investment. In short, we can be the spark that ignites the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

If you want to talk to Alan and engage with the AMRC call him on (but put the kettle on first): 07864 950 360 or email on

Source: AMRC

Massive Jobs Growth for Sheffield City Region

Sheffield City Region’s (SCR) local economy has gained 37,000 jobs since 2014, according to new research.

Figures show that, since 2014, the SCR local economy has created 37,000 jobs, 16,000 of which have been created directly due to activity led by the SCR’s team.

And there are now about 68,000 businesses operating across the city region, including 650 multi-national companies.

The region’s creative and digital sectors have grown faster than anywhere else in the UK, thanks to organisations such as Sheffield Digital and the city region’s own Growth Hub bringing businesses together and providing specialist support.

The Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District which is home to the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing, will soon include a £1bn global centre of excellence in metals and materials manufacturing.

Sir Nigel Knowles, chairman of the SCR Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Sheffield City Region’s forefathers built a truly global brand synonymous with quality, expertise, a ‘let’s get it done’ work-ethic and a significant sense of community.

“Now we are building on our privileged position and doing their legacy proud. We are achieving transformational change in modern manufacturing and technology sectors, particularly high performance components in the automotive and aerospace sectors.

“The decision by companies such as Boeing and McLaren to move here will not have gone unnoticed, and the international Horasis China Meeting taking place in the city region earlier this week will have further cemented our reputation on a world scale.

“I am proud of what we have achieved and look forward to seeing more of these successes in the near future.”