1 Locomotive at multimodal. Courtesy of Phil Marsh

Two Exhibitions Offer Unique Chances to See How the Railways Run

Published 15th April 2013

How does the UK depend on the rail freight industry?

It is probably safe to assume that if you are reading this, you have an interest in railways! Most people only ever see the ‘front of house’ part of the railways, either as a passenger or via the media. Recently there was the excellent BBC TV series about our railways which gave a clue about what happens behind the scenes. Should you wish to take a look for yourself at how the railways work, there are two major railway exhibitions looming.

Each year these exhibitions allow the public to have a look behind the scenes and to ask senior industry players questions, both events also offer informative seminars open to all to attend.

'Multimodal’ is the rail exhibition and showcases the freight side of the railways.

The first exhibition takes place at the NEC, Birmingham between April 23 and 25 inclusive and is free to enter if you pre-register. Multimodal is the UK and Ireland's leading freight transport and logistics exhibition with all the major freight hauliers present with some operational wagons and locomotives usually exhibited. If you want to understand how the railways are a vital piece of the UK supply chain, this is the event to visit.

There are many seminars and presentations on offer this year featuring actual case studies and offering critical industry updates on the transportation business. Multimodal has joined forces with the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) and the Freight Transport Association (FTA) to offer a series of events which are free to attend.


Multimodal, Malcolm Logistics and Prologis are again offering visitors a free visit to the Daventry International Railfreight Terminal (DIRFT). This provides a great insight as to how slick rail and road operations combine to provide an efficient freight haulage service. Places are strictly limited so if interested, you must pre-register for this three hour afternoon tour by coach from the exhibition halls.

Day One - Tuesday 23 April

The CILT seminar day is on April 23 and includes sessions at 10.30 to 11.00 about a day in the life of a container port when a BBC documentary ‘Sea City’ looks behind the scenes at the Port of Southampton. There is also The Multichannel Logistics Challenge between 12.15 and 13.15 where the growth in multichannel outlets means retailers are having to re-assess every aspect of their supply chain while the logistics industry needs to innovate in order to meet changing demands. The panel is drawn from across the supply chain industry and the debate will be interesting.

The following day’s offerings include between 10.30 and 11.30 a discussion on how do portcentric solutions fit into the changing needs of the supply chain industry, which is reappraising its approach in the light of consumer trends such as multichannel retail? The panel is again high powered including Tim Robinson, Freight Director, Network Rail who will be leaving his job in early May.

This is followed by various other discussions which will probably only appeal to hardened freight operators such as the, Declaration of container weights, Leveraging contracts with Ocean Carriers, fuel budgeting and Modal shift and carbon reduction. There are more events on offer the following day as well.

Beer game

A ‘Beer Game‘ is on offer at Multimodal with Trade Extensions who have arranged visitors to participate in what they describe as a classic supply chain challenge – The Beer Game. This simulates a simplified supply chain manufacturing and distributing beer and demonstrates some the fundamental challenges of supply chain management.

Four key roles, manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler and retailer are involved and the objective is for each role to minimise their costs while fulfilling the orders they receive. Visit stand 290 to participate.


The second of the exhibitions is Railtex 2013, which runs from April 30 to May 2 at London’s Earls Court. The exhibition is a huge affair and if visiting, you should allow at least half a day to see the exhibits. These range from the usual type of stands to outdoor displays covering all aspects of railway activity and innovation.

State opening

The opening ceremony takes place at 10.30am on April 30 with a speech from the Minister of State for Transport Rt Hon Simon Burns MP called; Investing in the railway

May 1 brings the Chairman of Network Rail, Richard Parry-Jones to the podium previewing the next five year funding period which starts in April 2014. Other presentations give updates on Network Rail’s major projects such as the massive electrification programme, the Birmingham Gateway Project and the Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Programme.

Rail Safety is what?

If you’ve ever wondered what the Rail Safety Standards Board does, then this is your chance when they will be showcasing their activities from 10.20am. Siemens Rail Systems UK is also holding a Seminar programme about Innovation and Collaboration, and Signalling Upgrades on the London Underground.

On May 2, the main event is a presentation by Andrew Wolstenholme, CEO of Crossrail, Europe’s largest railway project. There also further project updates from High Speed 2 and Hitachi on their Intercity Express train Programme.

Railtex describes itself as the all-encompassing UK Rail Industry Exhibition with hundreds of new products and services covering the whole rail supply market on display. This combined with the free to attend seminars, as well as live equipment demonstrations which does make it a great event to visit.

Tata trackworks and platforms

Tata Steel is exhibiting their range of track in their track display offering an authentic setting for track-related products and equipment. The exhibits will show their new patented rail steel with improved wear and rolling contact fatigue resistance. Tata’s SilentTrack is their noise damping system which reduces peak track noise levels by 3-7dB and Railcote is their rail coating which offers superior protection against corrosion. They are also bringing a Modular platform to the event. Tata will be speaking at the seminar programme at 11.50am on May 2 May, when they present 'More life: less maintenance - Innovative rail products reducing life cycle costs'.

Where, when and how much?

It is at the Earls Court No. 2 Exhibition Centre, Warwick Road London SW5 9TA, and is open between 10am and 5pm each day except the final day when it closes at 4pm.

The event organisers say that over 400 companies will be at the show with their latest products and services. Even if you are thinking about working in the rail industry, there will be job opportunities at the event with a recruitment wall where visitors can browse through exhibitor vacancies. You must pre-register for free entry otherwise its £20 admission!

French lesson?

The French equivalent railway trade fair recently took place in Lille and although interesting in parts, a two hour visit was all that was required. The most significant machinery on display was a giant cleaning device which has been designed to suck rubbish from the track alongside platforms.

There were also some seriously heavy engineering displays to be seen with huge castings for wheels, brakes and axles amongst many other items not normally seen as they are built into trains as control and reporting systems.

Other items were innovative train toilets and train drivers’ seats and a remotely controlled robot for rail exploration.

Written by Phil Marsh

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