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Last month, 18 companies from the UK rail sector joined a UKTI Yorkshire and the Humber-led trade mission to Germany. The aim was clear: to establish productive links between UK rail sector companies and Deutsche Bahn (DB), its subsidiaries, and its supply chain.

The UK has a strong story to tell on rail. Over the last two decades, the number of passenger journeys across all lines has doubled, and the volume of freight moved by rail has increased by 70 per cent. The UK railway increases the productive potential of the economy by £11.3 billion, reduces CO2 emissions and is the safest railway network in Europe.


Ambitious public projects such as HS2 and Crossrail show the UK’s commitment to the future of rail as a driving force for sustainable growth. These projects rely on effective collaboration between government and business across the whole rail supply chain.

Of the 18 companies who attended the UKTI trade mission, a significant proportion were from the Northern Powerhouse region. The Northern Powerhouse, first introduced by Chancellor George Osborne in June 2014, seeks to unite some of the UK’s biggest cities and other regions in the North: pooling a wealth of world-class expertise and business talent.

Combine this with a world-class heritage of manufacturing know- how, and the Northern Powerhouse has the potential to galvanise its collective power to drive economic growth across the North of England.


DB offers a variety of opportunities for UK rail companies throughout the supply chain. DB runs 5,100 trains daily and manages nearly 5,700 stations – the largest of any European operator. By 2017 it will invest €32 billion – two thirds in infrastructure and one third in traction and rolling stock. This mission therefore was a chance for UK companies to showcase their expertise and gain a foothold in this promising and expanding German sector.

The mission took place over four days and included speakers ranging from the chief executive officer of Serco, Rupert Soames, the British ambassador to Germany, Sir Sebastian Wood, and senior procurement representatives from DB, Bombardier Mobility and Siemens. The most valuable parts of the mission for the UK delegation were the 1-2-1s set up with buyers from a range of companies, representing the entire German rail supply chain, who were looking for UK expertise.

Several companies reported very productive discussions, which will likely lead to new business. Peter Hardy from IconPolymer said, ‘UKTI have given us great support. We have used this mission to enhance existing relationships with key customers and it has provided opportunities to extend this further. UKTI’s visit to Siemens has opened doors that wouldn’t otherwise have been open to us.’

Mark Robson, regional director at UK Trade and Investment Yorkshire and the Humber, added, ‘The UK has a great history of designing and developing railways all over the world. It is important that as a country we continue to share our innovation, skills and expertise globally, to support companies and help them win business overseas.

‘We are working closely with the National College for High Speed Rail in Doncaster, nurturing future talent to ensure sustainability of the British rail industry and associated supply chain.’

Article supported by UKTI Yorkshire and the Humber. Contact [email protected] for information on upcoming trade missions.