New Year 2013 means another confidence-boosting rail industry exhibition to look forward to. Railtex takes centre stage at Earls Court in London from 30 April to 2 May.
The show will be opened by Transport Minister Simon Burns MP. Railtex brings together designers, engineers, railway staff, planners and leaders with a full programme of displays and seminars. RailStaff talked to Heidi Cotsworth, Exhibition Manager, Mack Brooks Exhibitions, which organises Railtex and its sister show, Infrarail.
RailStaff: What will be new at Railtex this year?
Heidi Cotsworth: There will be several significant innovations. As an added feature of the exhibition itself, we are introducing The Yard. This is a display area for vehicles such as RRVs and larger items of rail plant, supplementing the established On Track Display for rail-mounted machinery and tools.
Your readers will remember The Yard first appeared at Infrarail last year, where it was very well received. Also new to Railtex will be The Platform, organised in partnership with Rail Champions to provide an interactive discussion forum on topical themes with panels of industry experts, with visitors welcome to join the discussions.
Another key development this year will be the first Railtex Awards. This will take the form of a dinner on the evening of 1 May celebrating the achievements of Railtex exhibitors.
Also new is an initiative to highlight career opportunities in the rail industry for engineering students and graduates. Supported by the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering and Young Railway Professionals, a programme we are calling ‘Rail – The Next Generation’ will bring together budding professionals and leading companies at Railtex to help respond to a recognised need to bridge the skills gap in the rail industry.
RailStaff: These will be in addition to established features of Railtex?
Heidi Cotsworth: Yes. There will also be a full programme of seminars running throughout the show and hosted by your sister publication ‘the rail engineer’, the Project Update Theatre, where project directors will outline the status of major UK rail schemes, and the opening day’s Networking Reception. Everyone attending Railtex will be welcome to take part in all of these.
RailStaff: What sort of exhibitor numbers can we expect?
Heidi Cotsworth: At the beginning of this year the number of companies that had confirmed their participation or reserved space at the show stood at 280. By the time the show opens we would expect that figure to rise to more than 400.
Your readers can always check the list of exhibitors at www.railtex.co.uk, which we keep updated. They will find plenty of familiar leading companies listed as well as many significantly important smaller firms, including new names bringing fresh ideas to the industry.
The Rail Alliance and Derby & Derbyshire Rail Forum will also have their own ‘hubs’ formed by members’ stands.
RailStaff: Mack Brooks continues to run both Railtex and Infrarail in the UK? Why the two shows and can you explain the differences between them?
Heidi Cotsworth: Taking the second question first, Infrarail is specifically concerned with the fixed assets of the railway – track, signalling and communications, civils, stations, security and so on.
All those sectors are also covered by Railtex, but in addition that show includes the many products and services relevant to train operations, notably rolling stock, so it encompasses the entire industry. We have been successfully running the two shows in alternating years for almost two decades now.
Support from the industry for
both remains very strong and with major schemes ongoing and positive signals from the government regarding long-term rail investment, we are confident that there is plenty of future demand for both events.
RailStaff: What are your plans for Infrarail 2014?
Heidi Cotsworth: Dates have now been set for this. The show will be at Earls Court in London from 20 to 22 May next year. And as well as including all the familiar features of previous shows, there is a significant development. Infrarail 2014 will take place alongside a new event we are planning – the Civil Infrastructure & Technology Exhibition – CITE 2014.
This will cover all the products and services needed by the UK’s transport, construction, utilities and communications infrastructure sectors, which are poised to benefit from major investments. We feel there is a lot of common ground between these markets, and staging the two exhibitions together will offer benefits both for companies taking part and for people visiting them.
RailStaff: So why are you moving Infrarail to London? Have you considered the impact of this on visitors from the Midlands, the North of England and Scotland?
Heidi Cotsworth: We are very aware that both Infrarail and Railtex need to be accessible for visitors from all over the UK and we feel that London meets this need very well. Recent Railtex shows have also been in central London and it has proved an excellent venue in terms of accessibility.
London is also an attractive destination for the foreign visitors that many exhibitors are keen to see at our shows. It’s worth noting that visitors from 49 countries came to the last Railtex and for Infrarail the figure was 36 countries.
RailStaff: What does staging Infrarail in London mean for Railtex in 2015?
Heidi Cotsworth: We are in constant contact with the industry and a decision on Railtex will be made in due course. The show has a history of running very successfully in any venue or location it has been staged in.
As with the initial planning for all our exhibitions we will listen to the industry and make plans dependent on the needs and aims of exhibitors and visitors to the show.
RailStaff: How long have you been running these shows?
Heidi Cotsworth: Mack Brooks’ first UK rail show was Light Rail 89 in
Bristol. Light Rail grew into Railtex, which was held for the first time at Wembley in 1993. This year’s Railtex will be the eleventh.
Infrarail was launched in 1994 at Manchester’s then G-Mex Centre. Introducing a second exhibition to meet the needs of the rail infrastructure sector was prompted by developments in the industry at the time, notably impending privatisation and the planned creation of a separate company responsible for track and signalling.
RailStaff: How do you feel these shows have changed over the years?
Heidi Cotsworth: Much has changed since they were first launched but both shows have stood up well to developments on both sides of the industry. In terms of what the exhibitions look like, they are very similar, though naturally they reflect company changes and industry consolidation over the years. The big change has been in the additional features they now incorporate.
The focus has been on increasing the value of a visit to Railtex or Infrarail by providing opportunities to learn about developments in policy and technological innovation. Seminar programmes and discussion forums like The Platform are examples.
Introduction of the On Track Display has also proved popular with exhibitors and visitors. Adding The Yard to this year’s Railtex will be another way in which visitors can inspect some of the products that the industry has to offer.
We also now have the Recruitment Wall (managed by www.railwaypeople.com) at each show to enable exhibitors to publicise their skills needs. Overall, both events are now much broader and offer more opportunities for people to get together.
RailStaff: Mack Brooks also has rail shows abroad. What are your plans for those?
Heidi Cotsworth: We organise established exhibitions in France, India, Italy and Russia, mostly taking place every two years. Our corporate website www.mackbrooks.com has details of all these.
RailStaff: When can people register to visit Railtex?
Heidi Cotsworth: Visitor registration is live on the show website www.railtex.co.uk from 14 January. It’s worth adding that registering in advance avoids an on-site entry fee of £20 and provides faster access to the exhibition. We look forward to welcoming RailStaff readers to the show.