Events News

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Three Peaks

About two hundred eager souls gathered on the warm June evening at Crewe railways station to take part in the annual Three Peaks by Rail challenge, organised by the Railway Children charity. Two teams from the Young Rail Professionals organisation were among those people and I was one of them.

Young Rail Professionals was founded in 2009 to promote the railway industry as a great place to work and to inspire and develop the next generation of railway talent. YRP bring together people from all aspects of industry, whether they are involved in engineering, asset management, train operations, strategic planning, maintenance, franchising, regulation, marketing or human relations.

This was my first time taking part in the challenge, which involves climbing three highest peaks in Wales, England and Scotland, often within 24 hours. Our challenge was slightly different though, all of the participants were from the railway industry so our mode of transport between the peaks was, of course, a train.

The goal of the challenge is to raise funds for the Railway Children charity that helps thousands of children across the UK, India and East Africa who run away or are forced to leave homes that have become unbearable through poverty, abuse, violence and neglect.

Each team of four is raising a minimum £3,500 and this year's challenge had total of 42 teams that raised a whooping £188,000 on the day of the challenge. The collection of funds for this challenge continues six weeks after the Peaks and you can still support our Young Rail Professionals teams here https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/PaulCase3

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The challenge started with a jolly train ride to the first Peak in Wales, a 1085 meter high Snowdon. Our first hike began at around 22:00 in pitch darkness and although this was the shortest hike, it was the steepest. Scrambling through the rock with only a head torch to guide you, hundreds of people formed a magical trail of flickering lights trailing all the way to the peak. The first hike was also the shortest, our Young Rail Professionals team finished it in three and a half hours.

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Once all the teams were back at the train at about 5am, we headed off for the second peak, the 978 meter high Scafell Pike in England.

All challenge participants had about 2-3 hours to sleep with a quick breakfast on board of the train as the next hike was about to start. By this point most of the walkers were sharing stories about which body parts ache the most, but we knew there were two more peaks to climb! This walk was quite uneventful right until the end, when after nearly four hours of walking the hope that the peak is just around the corner was shattered with each tired step. A cold windy fog engulfed the roof of Scafell Pike and the rocky terrain left you with an eerie feeling that you have been abandoned on some unfriendly planet and your only choice is to adapt. Teams going down kept saying that the summit is just "ten minutes away". At this point ten minutes felt like another year. But few more stiff hours later, we were back at the train station, waiting for the other teams to return. During this time a local woman that works at the railway station offered me and another girl from our team to use her shower and refresh. This felt like such a luxury! It made us remember why we are doing this challenge. To help the children who lost or never even had access to a soft bed, warm shower and a safe space.

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We were now on the way to the third and the highest peak, the 1345 meter Ben Nevis in Scotland. We had about six hours of sleep on the train before the last challenge.

Our last walk began 5am welcoming the sunrise and after two hours of solid uphill walking we were met with gusty winds and sideways rain. Everyone scrambled to get their waterproofs out and braved on. At this point some of the challenge participants started to give up as the pain and fatigue became too much to bare. Ben Nevis was not making it easy for us. We've entered the rocky and snowy terrain of an alien planet again. Chatter and laughter was long forgotten and the only thought was to just get to the summit and get back on the train. Our Young Rail Professionals team reached the summit soaking wet, stiff cold but happy and proud. After taking few shaky pictures we hastily headed back.

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In total our team has walked 15:50 hours and we are now planning our next challenge!

If you would like to contribute to the amazing work that the Railway Children charity is doing, please support us by contributing to our goal to raise the funds! https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/PaulCase3

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EVENTS: The second Airport Access Ideas Forum will take place on Wednesday 27th of June in London. The Forum is an event designed to highlight the key challenges airports, city planners and ground transport operators need to prepare for when planning airport access for future users.
 
Our attendees discuss the latest innovations in passenger mobility and their effect on airport access, including infrastructure planning, revenue and passenger experience. Through interactive discussions the Forum participants look at how new technologies and the sharing economy is changing road access and car parking businesses at airports, as well as the opportunities public transport can deliver for airport operators in terms of non-aeronautical revenue, improved customer experience and business development.
 
Airport Access Ideas Forum '18 is co-hosted by Katten Muchin Rosenman UK LLP, a full service law firm offering comprehensive and practical legal assistance to a cross section of industries including aviation, transportation construction and engineering sectors. Katten’s attorneys are often sought out for their expertise in aviation, technology and infrastructure, and pride themselves on providing timely advice on a range of issues facing their clients.
 
The Forum will focus on Autonomous Vehicles Technologies and Mobility as a Service looking into how it will impact the future of airport infrastructure design, non-aeronautical revenues, public transport access mode share and urban development.
 
"The Airport Access Ideas Forum gives the opportunity for transport professionals to challenge themselves and each other with forward thinking discussions. Carefully selected short and thought provoking presentations will highlight the future of automated and subscription based transport technologies and look at how it will impact airport access for passengers and employees," Director of the Global AirRail Alliance, Milda Manomaityte said.
 
“We are thrilled to be hosting this year’s Airport Access Ideas Forum. Having worked with clients to discover solutions to some of the issues they face in relation to the topics being covered at the Forum, we are looking forward to hearing the views of the attendees on their vision of the future of transportation and associated industries,” said Alan Meneghetti, a partner in Katten’s London office and who is also the vice-chair of the Worldwide Airport Lawyers Association.

Call for Speakers

We are now calling for companies and airports to submit proposals for presentations and discussions. If you are interested in joining the event, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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EVENTS: Following Virgin Hyperloop One’s latest project updates at the 2018 Middle East Rail conference, Leanne Wheeler, Senior Consultant for North Star Consultancy, shares with airrail NEWS how we must learn to look past the hype of hyperloop in order to be ready for the day when it changes everything.

Last year’s Middle East Rail conference saw Virgin Hyperloop One make some big promises to a technically minded and expertly sceptical rail audience. Slick, beautifully created marketing presentations envisaged a futuristic landscape where pods would zoom at speeds in excess of 1000km/h (671 mph) through perfectly straight metal tubes, providing seamless, point-to-point travel between neighbouring cities at record speeds in order to redefine regions.

As Virgin Hyperloop One continued its worldwide sales mission throughout 2017, the plaudits came thick and fast. “London to Edinburgh in just 50 minutes!” claimed The Telegraph. “No two GCC cities more than one hour apart!” boasted Gulf News.

Yet the audience at the rail conference that day was left partly enthralled, partly bemused and entirely ready to challenge. Was Virgin Hyperloop One in danger of selling nothing more than hype itself?

Assessing the Present Reality
Since last year’s conference Virgin Hyperloop One has made significant strides in terms of real, tangible progress. The proof of concept was established in May with the world’s first successful test run in a fully constructed loop located in the Nevada desert. The organisation received a large boost when Sir Richard Branson invested in the company and became Chairman of its Board. As the firm seeks further investment to develop its technology, the weight of Branson and the Virgin brand can only help move the commercialisation agenda forward.

That said, no one can deny that concerns over the safety and feasibility of hyperloop still exist. How can we predict if hyperloop is still set to achieve the aim of offering a transformative new travel mode that will redefine the boundaries of cities and regions as we know them? The answer lies in drawing lessons from the past and specifically the launch of commercial air travel, which developed enormously over the course of a series of technological leaps throughout the 20th century that nobody could have foreseen.

Ultimately, through recognising that we do not yet have all the answers and being careful to set realistic expectations in spite of the hype, we can in fact lend ourselves more easily to believing the long-term vision. The technology has been proven; it simply needs time.

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Drawing Lessons from the Past
The world’s first scheduled commercial airline flight occurred on January 1st, 1914 when a Benoist Type XIV biplane piloted by Antony H Jannus carried former St. Petersburg Mayor A. C. Phiel for a short hop across Old Tampa Bay in Florida. The flight lasted 23 minutes, with a maximum airspeed of 64 mph and flew at a height of just 50 feet. Whilst we would scoff at this in terms of today’s aviation, it was ground-breaking at the time.

35 years later, at the end of World War 2, the Jet Age was born. A British de Havilland Comet became the first commercial jet engine to fly in 1952. Boeing developed its 707 airliner and completed the first transatlantic flight in 1958 and the world’s first jumbo jet (the Boeing 747) revolutionised air travel once more in 1970. Without even considering other technological leaps such as supersonic jets regularly exceeding speeds of Mach 2 and man’s rocket-fuelled adventures into space, it is clear with hindsight that that one short flight across the Old Tampa Bay in 1914 paved the way for incredible progress.

Compare this to hyperloop successfully reaching speeds of 374 km/h (250mph) on its very first test run. Who could possibly foresee how hyperloop technologies could develop over a similar timespan of 100 years?

Whilst it is easy for technical experts to dismiss hyperloop entirely and point out its seemingly many challenges, it must be remembered that there are no greater gifts than hindsight and time. Let us not forget for example, that former President of the Royal Society and esteemed physicist Lord Kelvin himself declared in 1895 that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”. At the time, such a leading expert in the field of science would scarcely have been challenged. Yet, we now know how wrong he was. The success of air travel has been phenomenal, arguably transforming the world as we know it.

Realistically Planning for the Future
The current focus on hyperloop must therefore, not be on questioning whether 1000km/h+ speeds are indeed possible or whether we will one day be able to nip to New York for a Yankees match and be back in London for breakfast. We cannot let the dream cloud the reality. It must be on developing the technology to operate safely at sub-optimal speeds and implementing hyperloops in places where real benefit can be gained by the technology as it operates in its current form. All we really need to know right now is the best base from which to make the next leap forward.

An excellent example of an answer to this conundrum comes courtesy of the Mumbai – Pune corridor in India, where Virgin Hyperloop One recently announced that is has signed a binding agreement with the State of Maharashtra to develop a hyperloop between the two cities within the next five - seven years. Not only is the route planned to operate at slower speeds but crucially, the route map contains curves! It could be said that this represents an admission on the part of Virgin Hyperloop One that its marketing maps filled with straight shiny lines between A-B are unrealistic. If this is the case, then this provides a reassuring hint of actual, tangible progress.

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Virgin Hyperloop One and other companies developing hyperloop technologies would do well to focus their efforts in countries similar to India, where saturated cities are separated by vast expanses of relatively flat terrain. This will afford the opportunity to build and refine the required infrastructure at reduced cost in comparison to heavily built-up cities (compare this to the London – Birmingham HS2 route, for example, where the infrastructure and tunnelling costs would be entirely prohibitive).

Towards the Next Giant Leap for Mankind
One of the key difficulties facing Virgin Hyperloop One and its competitors is that they must drive private investment in hyperloop by creating excitement, without risking a loss of confidence in their products by making claims that seem at best, too futuristic, or at worst, technically impossible.

For all the buzz that the shiny marketing presentations, promises of 1000+ km/h and idealistic journey time calculators based on straight lines create, we must learn to readjust our expectations and support the gradual development of hyperloop through incremental steps. Otherwise there is a real risk that hyperloop will, for a long time, exist in the realm of extreme and super-futuristic sci-fi, only to be believed by the devoted few and left to be derided by the pessimistic (and some may say realistic) many.

The certain truth is that hyperloop technologies are developing as we speak. Now that the technology has been proven, it can only get better, faster, safer and cheaper.

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The Global AirRail Awards 2017 ceremony took place in Brussels on Tuesday 14th of November, during the annual Global AirRail Conference organised by the Global AirRail Alliance and co-hosted by the Airport Regions Conference and Brussels Airport Company. 

The GARA awards seek to raise awareness of partnerships between airports, airlines, railways and other ground transport operators to improve experience of people travelling to and from airports.

"New mobility technologies are emerging fast and changing the entire culture of travel. For public transport to stay competitive in this fast pace world, all the operators, whether in air or on the ground, need to come together and find the best way to join up their services to customers. Through the Global AirRail Awards we want to recognise innovative thinking and partnerships that contribute to the future mobility," Director of the Global AirRail Alliance Milda Manomaityte said.

Winners were announced in seven categories.

AirRail Technology

This award is designed to recognise the best technology solution that has the greatest impact to business, improving services on air-rail journeys.

WINNER
Ethos Farm & Greater Anglia - Train BrApp for Stansted Express
A new colleague specific application that provides daily briefing and communication platform to employees as well as live daily operational updates and during times of disruption.

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From left: Léa Bodossian, Secretary General of Airport Regions Conference; Andrew Camp, Commercial Director of Greater Anglia; Sally Alington and Mat Garner, Founders of Ethos Farm; Milda Manomaityte, Director of the Global AirRail Alliance

Marketing Campaign on the Year,

This award is dedicated to recognising the most creative and successful marketing campaigns in the air-rail sector.

WINNER
Flytoget - Travel Guarantee
Due to Flytoget's consistent punctuality, the travel guarantee is an important but very little known feature. The marketing campaign illustrated the exceptional train service punctuality and the value of travel guarantee when unforeseen events do happen.

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From left: Milda Manomaityte, Director of the Global AirRail Alliance; Alain Vandenplas, Mobility and Intermodality Manager, Brussels Airport Company; Philipp Engedal, CEO of Flytoget.

Customer Service Excellence

The Customer Service Excellence award looks for the best examples of delivering an enjoyable and stress free journey from air to rail.

WINNER
MTR Corporation Limited
To increase customer satisfaction MTR's Airport Express Line has conducted a Journey Mapping exercise, identifying key areas for improvement. This resulted in a sharp increase on both service quality and passenger satisfaction ratings.

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From left: Liam Henderson, Founder of Transporting Cities, Karen Chan, Manager Sales & Airport Express Marketing and David Chan, Operations Manager Airport Express Line at MTR Corporation Limited; Milda Manomaityte, Director of the Global AirRail Alliance

Travelport Project of the Year

This award is given to a project or an initiative that is contributing greatly to future air-rail services, improving customer experience or engaging with local communities.

WINNER
FERROVIENORD and SEA Milano - MXPT2 Link Up
A railway extension connecting Malpensa Airport Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 opened in December 2016 and in the first six months nearly one and a half million passengers have used the service. The link up represents the first phase of the Malpensa North Rail Access Project.

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From Left: Christoph Klenner, Secretary General of the European Technology and Travel Services Association; Paolo Mantegazza, Head of Asset Management, FERROVIENORD; Massimo Corradi, Real Estate and Funding Programmes Manager at SEA Milano. 

AccesRail Integrated AirRail Partnership of the Year

This award celebrates successful partnerships between operators, suppliers and organisations, who work together to create seamless air-rail journeys.

WINNER
Austrian Airlines, ÖBB and AccesRail
The partnership was established to implement the intermodal travel in the Austrian market, enabling to book train and flight segments via airline distribution channels.

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From left: Oddbjorn Taraldsvik, Director Business Development at AccesRail/ACP Marketing; Milda Manomaityte, Director of the Global AirRail Alliance; Oliver Kuselbauer, Partner Manager at Austrian Airlines; Michael Forstner, CEO at City Air Terminal Betriebsgesellschaf; Julianna Moats, Principal Systems Engineer at WSP.

North Star AirRail Link of the Year

The North Star Air Rail Link of the Year award recognises the service with best performance results and highest overall impact to the air-rail market over the past year.

WINNER
Heathrow Express
Effective communication with customers during disruption time, new off-peak pricing strategy and partnerships with travel management companies helped Heathrow Express to achieve 9% ridership increase, 14% online sales growth and 97% overall customer satisfaction rate.

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From left: Milda Manomaityte, Director of the Global AirRail Alliance; Karan Suri, Pricing Manager and Fraser Brown, Business Lead at Heathroew Express; Richard Brown, Managing Director of North Star Consultancy. 

AirRail Personality of the Year

Personality of the Year award recognises the achievements of an individual who has delivered a great positive impact to improving and promoting air-rail journeys.

WINNER
Per Thorstenson, CEO, Arlanda Express
Per is an inspirational leader for Arlanda Express and has created a strong culture of collaboration for his staff. Under Per's leadership Arlanda Express dares to be a little different and stand out while providing an exciting experience for millions of passengers.

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From left: Milda Manomaityte, Director of the Global AirRail Alliance; Per Thorstenson, CEO of Arlanda Express.

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EVENTS: Brussels Airport has joined the annual Global AirRail Conference and Awards 2017 as one of the hosts. Each year the event discusses key challenges in providing multimodal access to and from airports, focusing on improving rail connectivity for passengers and employees.

Over the past few years, Brussels Airport has grown into a multimodal transport hub and an economic powerhouse in the heart of Europe, contributing 1.8% to the national GDP and with an added value for Belgium of EUR 3.2 billion.

Commercial passenger flights and cargo activities at Brussels Airport generate direct and indirect employment for 60,000 people.

“Brussels Airport aims to improve the connections between the various means of transport. The intermodal hub at Brussels Airport can be extended further with more trains and buses, and with a tram and bicycle network. This will give passengers and Airport Community staff more options for travelling to and from the airport, as well as transferring at the airport on the way to their final destination," says Alain Vandenplas, Mobility & Intermodality Manager of Brussels Airport Company.

"The airport will be making a major contribution towards better mobility for all commuters and other travellers in the region as a whole. As part of the Strategic Vision 2040, the airport has set itself a target that by the year 2040, 50% of the passengers and the Airport Community employees will come by public transport, bicycle or on foot, as compared with the current 30%. We are working with the government and the transport companies to give substance to this plan, but are also really looking forward to exchange ideas and discuss airport access with other industry leaders from around the world.”

The Global AirRail Conference and Awards is taking place in Brussels on 13-14 November and is a partnership between the Global AirRail Alliance (GARA), an organization promoting rail access to airports, and the Airport Regions Conference (ARC), an association of regional and local authorities across Europe with an international airport situated within or near its territory.

"I am very happy to welcome Brussels Airport as our hosts and grateful for their support in bringing the Global AirRail event to Brussels. The Airport is at the centre of our discussions on how to improve access for all of its users and we have set up a very engaging programme for our conference delegates," said Milda Manomaityte, Director of the Global AirRail Alliance.