The rail industry was out in force at the ninth Infrarail Exhibition, held at the NEC near Birmingham.
Over 5,500 people came to see more than 200 exhibitors. The team from RailStaff was there too along with writers from the rail engineer – which hosted a series of well attend seminars. RailStaff’s new format attracted much attention and favourable comment.
Minister of State for Transport, Teresa Villiers MP, opened the show. Her speech, delivered in the exhibition’s seminar theatre, reassured delegates and she demonstrated a firm command of her brief. Afterwards she met staff on the RailStaff stand and reassured us that she was right behind High Speed Two.
Around the rest of the show, exhibitors, customers and colleagues were meeting up and discussing business. Stands came in all shapes and sizes, one of the biggest was from signalling specialists Invensys. They were just inside the door and seemed busy throughout the show. Commercial director Will Wilson was on hand and specifically asked to take two copies of RailStaff away with him.
So who else was there? Network Rail’s Simon Kirby, managing director infrastructure projects, and David Golding, electrification programme sponsor, also spoke in the seminar theatre, as did the safety director of Balfour Beatty Rail, Steve Holmes.
Eighteen exhibitors had their chance to address visitors on a wide variety of subjects ranging from surveying to lighting.
To pick out a few highlights, lighting specialists MJ Quinn was showing a new range of LED replacements for conventional fluorescent tubes. Operating over 360°, the fires-resistant tube is ideal for use in underground stations. If the power should fail, the integral photo-luminescent strip will emit light for up to four hours, sufficient time for the station to be evacuated. Ingenious!
Keyline, part of the Travis Perkins group, exhibited at Infrarail for the first time as part of the Yard which gave plant companies the opportunity to show of their larger vehicles. One of the new DAF crane-operated vehicles that Keyline will use to support Crossrail was on display.
LH Group was close by, showing off a converted Mercedes lorry from Zweiweg that can be used as a base vehicle for a variety of applications. They also served some of the best coffee at the show.
Coffee was also a feature of the Holdfast stand. A full-sizes espresso machine did the honours, while Mark Coates-Smith expounded on the virtues of Holdfast’s rubber level crossing panels.
Protective clothing specialists PHS Besafe were showing a new system tailored to the needs of the rail industry. Arc:Gear multi-layer garments will not melt or fuse on contact with live electrical arc flash, while the next-to-skin and mid layers ensure that the garment has good breathability and doesn’t hinder movement.
When walking round all the busy stands got a bit too much, there was always the networking area next to the PHS Besafe stand. Plenty of chairs and tables allowed visitors to sit down for a discussion, or just rest aching feet.
The Platform, a panel-forum area that was new at Infrarail this year, was close by and seemed well attended while sessions were underway. Topics covered collaborative working, HS2, innovation and the skills gap, so there was something for everyone.
Back in the main exhibition, Tata Steel was based near a couple of panels of track, which were being used by other exhibitors to show off their equipment.
The blue-painted steel sleepers looked smart, and the SilentTrack® noise-deadening block attached to the rails were a good example of how Tata is still developing track technology.
Attending Infrarail is all about meeting people; former colleagues not seen for years, experts in their field who can explain new technology, and entrepreneurs and innovators who have something different to offer.
It all adds up to a very useful three days at the NEC. Next year will be the turn of Railtex, held 30 April – 2 May at Earls Court 2 in London.