MacKay Hannah

12th Annual Scottish Rail Conference: the future for rail in Scotland (online)

Tue 22nd Nov 2022

OVERVIEW View Conference Agenda

Scotland’s railways have a critical role to play in supporting the wider economy, our communities and Scotland’s push for Net Zero. However, the impact of the past two years presented a fundamental challenge to the scope, viability and purpose of rail as passenger numbers plummeted and travel patterns altered. What therefore needs to happen next to ensure rail in Scotland’s long-term sustainability?

The 12th Annual Scottish Rail Conference will explore the strategic recovery picture for rail. It will discuss what has been happening on the ground on projects, services and patronage and will focus on where Scottish rail goes from here.

Transport has experienced unprecedented change during the last two years – rail as much and perhaps more so than any other mode. Work and lifestyle patterns were altered. People experienced a world where the nature and purpose of travel was disrupted, perhaps permanently, for many. The long-term implications of this experience for rail on revenue, development, safety and climate sustainability are difficult to predict.

The evidence of what comes next appears mixed. Rail was estimated to have seen patronage fall at one stage to Victorian levels but had bounced back to sixty percent of normal levels by June of 2021. The Rail Delivery Group stated that in mid-October journeys to work by train were at just 45% of pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, despite the patronage challenge substantial infrastructure and project works have continued to be delivered throughout most of the pandemic. The new London to Edinburgh Lumo service was launched despite pandemic.

So, what is the real and enduring impact on rail going to be? Has project delivery in the current Control Period been slowed or enhanced and how will this affect the new period due to commence in 2024? What impact, if any, will there be upon the ScotRail franchise nationalisation from April 2022 onward? What are rail commuters now thinking and where do their ambitions lie? Is rail facing a period of declining passenger related stagnation or an opportunity for Net Zero driven investment in infrastructure and service growth?

This conference examines the core challenges – and perhaps opportunities - rail in Scotland faces in re-engineering and re-tooling its purpose and its future. Against this backdrop the conference will focus on three broad themes:

  • The post-epidemic impact on - and implications for - rail
  • The picture on the ground - what is happening now?
  • Planning ahead - what is coming next?

Benefits of attending

  • The strategic picture for Scottish rail
  • Rethinking rail – post-franchise and post-pandemic
  • Delivering new or reshaping existing services?
  • Understanding what passengers now think
  • Decarbonising the rail system
  • Innovation in rail travel
  • Control periods and development – what’s next?
  • New priorities and new projects

Who should attend

This conference will be relevant for anyone involved in the planning, building, maintenance or delivery of rail and rail services in Scotland. This includes train operating companies, engineering and infrastructure companies, regulators, transport lawyers, academics and managers, project managers and professional advisors, smart mobility and data specialists, those working in rail systems and services supply, freight and passenger companies and bodies, partners in the rail supply chain, associated transport systems and services and rail representative bodies.


Jenny Gilruth MSP

Minister for Transport, Scottish Government

Catherine Hall

Head of Strategic Planning - Scotland, Network Rail

Alex Hynes

Managing Director, Scotland’s Railway

Matthew Lee

Commercial & Customer Experience Director, Lumo

Robert Samson

Senior Stakeholder Manager, Transport Focus

Judith Turner

Deputy Chief Ombudsman, Rail Ombudsman and Dispute Resolution Ombudsman

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I was drawn to this conference because of it's relevance to my work in planning and housing. I felt that the speakers were engaging and the chair kept things moving and helped the debate and questions along nicely. Overall the event was well balanced, thought provoking and provided views from a number of different perspectives.

Housing Conference 2015