Monday, September 17, 2012

Rail Freight Celebrates Achievement Whilst European Infrastructure Under Pressure

RFG Award Winners Announced
Shipping News Feature

UK – The Rail Freight Group (RFG) celebrated its annual awards last week and the big winners were the Group’s sponsor partners DB Schenker which collected not only the Business of the Year and Environmental Innovation awards but saw Production Manager Adrian Hibbard pick up the title of Outstanding Contribution by an individual. Meanwhile reports from Europe indicate that the economic situation is having a drastic effect on building companies associated with rail infrastructure development projects.

Firstly those awards, Schenker will be particularly pleased to receive the Business of the Year award which the judges say was due to the company’s ability to consistently deliver projects of varying sizes with the same high degree of commitment and client focus. In addition they had taken into account the group ethos of encouraging employees to develop their own schemes and the promotion of these initiatives for the benefit of industry and the environment.

It was exactly this policy which led to the success of Adrian Hibbard who exceeded customer expectations following his appointment to oversee the entire operation undertaken for a client in order to ensure best use of staff and equipment. His review led to a dramatic improvement in performance, and addressed a critical component of success, planning wagon maintenance ahead to ensure trains did not run short, gaining him a very strong testimonial from the client involved. It was another initiative started by a single member of DB Schenker’s staff, Andrew Hogan, who established a components recycling facility, which led to the company picking up the honours for Environmental Innovation. Andrew developed a facility to repair and recycle stanchion pins and other environmentally positive initiatives both saving cost and environmental harm.

The Technical Development Award went to Europorte Channel working with London Carex (both Groupe Eurotunnel subsidiaries) when the pair collaborated to demonstrate the capability for continental high speed rail freight. The trial took place over a 24-hour period and involved the movement of a high-speed train laden with freight from the South of France via Paris to London St Pancras and back. This was a unique event which required the arrangement of a complex sequence of consents, coordinated border controls, signalling and timetabling within a very tight timescale.

Lafarge Cement UK collected the Project of the Year award for its part in the Northfleet Rail Connection Partnership. This undertaking rejuvenated what was once the UK’s largest cement producing plant to enable it to play a key supporting role on the Crossrail undertaking involving as it did re-connection of the plant to the main network and the establishment of a tunnelling logistics centre for Crossrail, all achieved on time and in budget.

Elsewhere in the UK road haulage representatives celebrated with local stakeholders after Network Rail admitted they had pushed on with plans to close the A371 at Castle Cary, Somerset for 15 weeks without consulting locally. Work was due to begin last week but has been postponed until the spring following strenuous objections from the Road Haulage Association (RHA) amongst others. RHA Midlands and Western Regional Director Nick Payne explained:

“We registered a strong objection to this closure with Somerset County Council. In particular, we explained the cost ramifications of a diversion, possibly in excess of 32 miles, to a transport operation running in and out of Castle Cary several times a day. We accept that this work is necessary, particularly from a safety point of view but we are pleased that Network Rail have agreed to a delaying the commencement date. It will mean more opportunity for consultation and will help local residents, businesses, transport operators in particular, to be able to plan ahead more effectively”.

Meanwhile things are looking bleak for some in Eastern Europe following the demise of the rail unit of Budimex SA, Poland’s largest builder, reportedly filing for bankruptcy on the 24th August. The situation is similar to one which all of the top three building groups in that country with rail development interests find themselves as competition to develop such infrastructure in the region has become hot to say the least.

With several major schemes to build better rail links the area is seen as the lifeline which many of Europe’s developers have been seeking and eighteen separate groups bid for the recent tender to upgrade one single twenty mile stretch of Polish track when offers were invited earlier this year, with the result that the winning quote came in at a figure 27% less than anticipated.

EU investment money has been used to tempt an international range of builders to quote on the redevelopment and improvement of Poland’s rail system which a recent report stated had deteriorated to such an extent that the average speed of trains is now less than it was before World War Two.

Meanwhile the debate surrounding the retention of the German holding company model continues during a period of pressure from the European Commission to introduce total separation between infrastructure manager and all train operators, with RFG Chairman and ERFA Board Member Tony Berkeley stating his personal views very strongly in an RFG website article.

Photo: Winners at the RFG Awards sponsored by Burges Salmon and GB Railfreight.