Patrick McLoughin: ‘We estimate we need 10,000 new engineers’


railsupplygroupLeft to right: Rail Supply Group chair Terence Watson, skills secretary Sajid Javid, and transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin


The UK’s rail industry supply sector has launched a strategy to address existing skills shortages and create the expertise required to deliver major railway engineering projects planned over the next decade including HS2 and the digital railway. It includes targets for 20,000 apprenticeships to be created in the next five years, and for 20% of new entrants to the industry to be female. At present only 4% of rail engineers and train drivers are women.

As well as seeking to increase recruitment and investment in the workforce, the strategy aims to create market conditions for companies to grow, accelerate innovation, and become more competitive. It has set a target for the sector to double exports over the next decade and become a global leader. Initiatives to support the sector include plans for a rail supplier excellence scheme, speeding up payments to small businesses and a Rail Supply Chain Finance Forum to improve banks’ understanding of the sector and reduce the cost of finance.

Introducing the strategy, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said it provided the means to provide the resources required for planned infrastructure projects but there would be a real risk that they would not be delivered if the targets for growing the workforce were not met.

“As things stand today, parts of the rail industry will lose half their staff to retirement within the next 15 years,” he said. “Yet for the improvements to our existing network, we estimate we need 10,000 new engineers. And we expect HS2 alone to create 25,000 jobs during construction and 3000 jobs in operation. If we do nothing, the supply chain simply won’t be able to get the work done. Already, the strategy estimates that existing skills shortages are increasing costs and delaying projects, with the cost to government put at over £350m per year.”

Terence Watson, president of Alstom UK and chair of the Rail Supply Group, highlighted commitments from the Rail Delivery Group to work with RSG in developing a sustainable technical strategy for the industry and present a united voice to influence government direction as key aspects of the RSG’s strategy.

To support the overall apprenticeships target, McLoughin said supplier contracts will have apprenticeship recruitment requirements written in proportionate to the amount of public sector money the DfT is investing in individual projects.


This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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