Rail Alliance in Scotland


Rail Alliance sets up ‘New’ alliance in Scotland – many of you will know of the ‘Auld Alliance’ set up in 1295 between Scotland and France – an example of power sharing and collaboration pre-dating BS11000 by several centuries.  The Auld Alliance fizzled out as a formal agreement in the mid-16th century; however, there are many examples of the relationship that endure to this day.  So, bearing that history in mind, the Rail Alliance’s older Francophile (the quarter-French, three-quarter-Scottish Robert Hopkin, Exec Director) set off for Scotland to woo the Scots with some of the Rail Alliance’s charms.

On 16th March, with generous sponsorship from AJT Engineering (Rail Alliance member and based in Aberdeen) we staged a very successful diversification seminar for the Oil and Gas Sector with assistance from Scottish Enterprise, Scottish MAS (‘yes’ … Scotland still has the much-lamented MAS provision which has been lost south of the border), Network Rail, ScotRail, Heriot Watt University, Porterbrook Leasing – each, and all, of whom gave their insight into the rail industry.  Importantly, none of this would not have happened without help and assistance from the sector’s trade association Oil & Gas UK (www.oilandgasuk.co.uk).  We were made to feel very welcome and there was a keenness to work together straight away with a natural collaborative approach evident from the outset – our thanks and appreciation go to Ken Cruickshank and Shahana Shami of Oil & Gas UK.

So, with over 90 people from over 80 companies attending this event, it was clear there was an appetite for information about the rail sector, equally, there was a hunger from the Oil & Gas sector to learn from rail to ‘fix’ some of the issues in their sector and this led us to think that there should be more opportunities for technical transfer between these 2 fine sectors.  As a consequence, I met with Luca Corradi – the Innovation Network Director at the newly-established Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) see: www.theogtc.com.  At that time, the OGTC’s Innovation Hub was but a bare room within the OGTC; it has since gone operational as a ‘state-of-the-art facility to drive innovation and accelerate new technologies to help unlock the full potential of the UK North Sea’.  The OGTC’s Innovation Hub is already making a real difference at informing the debate about technologies that are out there (whether from another sector or not) that can make a step change to the operational benefit (in terms of productivity, efficiency, quality, value) for the Oil & Gas sector.  To see an example of the OGTC Innovation Hub in use – visit https://youtu.be/COZUgAvexIk.

So, back to the future, and this month we were invited back to Aberdeen for the Oil & Gas UK’s annual Share Fair – a one-day expo in the AECC, Aberdeen which has a mixture of one-to-one meetings with contractors, exhibition stands as well as presentation booths … not unlike our sector’s successful Rail Vehicle Enhancement (RVE) one-day show (see www.rve-expo.co.uk/).  This event took place on 1 November and attracted 1000+ delegates; the Rail Alliance and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (www.ore.catapult.org.uk/) were selected to present throughout the day in the Share Fair’s Diversification Booth.  Since then, we have had a steady number of enquiries from the Oil & Gas community with a desire to learn about (or from) the rail sector.  We look forward to maintaining strong links with the Oil & Gas UK community as well as looking at other sectors where we could reap mutual benefit.


Delegates at the Oil & Gas UK Share Fair taking up the opportunity to have one-to-one meetings with the contractors – a model we hope to replicate at one or more of our future events.  These events are not titled ‘meet the buyer’ events as there is a degree of presumption in that definition and we believe that such a term actually frightens off the contractors (!) – the concept of a one-to-one meeting (I appreciate that at least one party attending a one-to-one meeting may well be in ‘sell’ mode – however, the stage is set for a more open and informative discussion and could easily be developed to become an opportunity for Early Contractor Involvement?