Andy Rogers, Project Director for Hitachi Rail Europe, writes from Innotrans 2016
Innotrans, like many industry events, is full of buzzwords aimed to project an image of change and new ideas. “Forward looking”, “cutting edge” and “state of the art” to name but a few phrases we will read and hear plenty of. Over the course of this week at Innotrans most of us will be winners of Buzzword Bingo.
One word which will be used considerably is “innovation”.
It’s a nice word for PR people to use, but what does it actually mean?
Well, my job is to manage a range of rail projects that Hitachi is delivering to transform the UK’s railways. From orders for new trains, to the latest signalling systems, every day is varied but all with the same goal of bettering our industry.
Hitachi’s products are innovative because they aim to improve the rail sector. We’re producing new modern rolling stock that is more comfortable for passengers and has bi-mode power, so it is more flexible. At the same time looking to revolutionise the way the network runs utilising the latest in signalling technology. Spot the buzzwords!
So for me, innovation is making improvements. It is about finding new or more efficient ways to run the railway.
This can span across the industry – it could be about flexible, comfortable rolling stock, better maintenance or new technology. Ultimately, if we can find an improvement, however small, that means we can do things more effectively than they’ve been done before – that’s what we’ll do.
This isn’t about changing the status quo, for its own sake. This is good business, but it leads to improvements for passengers and society. By driving rail innovation, we’re driving social innovation
We are using innovation to solve problems faced in the real world. This can mean getting to a destination in a faster journey time, the ability to connect new places or to simply allow people to make the most of their journey by improving working or leisure facilities.
For me, there’s one aspect of innovation which often gets overlooked. In my role, the best use of innovation is when it ensures a project is delivered on time and on budget. At Innotrans, there are plenty of new products to marvel at. But, if new products can’t be delivered, they fall short of being practical.
I’m currently overseeing Hitachi’s role in the Intercity Express Programme (IEP), which is the UK’s biggest ever rolling stock project. Standing at a total cost of £5.6bn to supply trains and maintenance services, it’s really as big as they come.
We’ll replace the stock across the East Coast and Great Western main lines in an order for 866 vehicles. In total, 110 Class 800 series trains will be built at our manufacturing facility in Newton Aycliffe, in the North East of England. To succeed in completing this order we’ve had to think and act differently to other rail projects
Every day we assess our manufacturing and testing programmes to see how we can do things differently, all to ensure customers have these trains on time. On a project of this size, failing to innovate and introduce new practices will mean we’re unable to deliver to programme.
From a personal viewpoint, innovation therefore is about achieving improvements which have a positive impact on rail travel. Whether its design or delivery, innovation has to be a part of a mind-set, not just something shiny and new for an exhibition stand.
*You can find out more about Hitachi Rail Europe at Innotrans 2016 here