Daniel has over 15 years of experience working in the rail sector. Recruited entirely virtually during the lockdown period, the ‘digital-first’ ethos of Kloeckner has proved a welcome antidote for Dan. We sat down virtually with our latest rail expert, Daniel and asked him about the rail sector and his experience working with various stakeholders across the rail sector.
1. How do you think the rail sector will change post COVID19?
Post COVID19, I suspect passenger numbers will take some time to recover, and therefore government support may prove crucial to maintaining service levels. To enable cleaner cities and to reduce carbon emission in the longer term, we might see a growth in the tram and urban rail systems to further encourage people out of their cars and onto electrically powered public transport. Also, the role rail freight plays in supply chains is likely to increase too as there is a continuing drive to decarbonise the movement of freight.
2. What expertise can customers expect on rail projects in your role at Kloeckner?
I have a background dealing with railway customers so I understand some of their challenges. I hope to use this expertise along with my technical materials background to add value to Kloeckner Customers. We have a great team of product and processing experts to support our customers’ needs with the potential to add real value to the customer’s supply chain.
With a wide range of products, processes and digital procurement solutions available we are well aligned with the needs of both railway infrastructure and rolling stock markets. I see great partnership opportunities on a wide range of rail projects.
3. Tell us a little bit about yourself
I have spent my career around steel and railway industries. I am a materials engineer by training, and I have this week been accepted as a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3). My most recent career has been making and marketing rail products. If you’ve travelled by train in the UK in the last few years – chances are you’ll be travelling over rails which I’ve been responsible for. Outside work, I like my neo-classic British cars with a few Austin, Rover and MG projects in my garage consuming what little spare time my children allow me, getting my hands dirty.
4. How can the rail industry better adopt new technologies in the UK?
Innovation is an issue the rail industry has struggled with for many years. Its assets are designed for long lives in a safety-critical environment, which favours a traditional/conservative approach. This conservative approach has its advantages, though, as despite the recent tragedy, the UK railway is one of the safest in Europe. However, it is well recognised that the industry needs to be more agile and innovative to remain unbeaten in its third century of operation. There are many barriers to adopting innovations, including in some cases how the industry is currently structured in the UK. Moreover, knowledge sharing could be encouraged among stakeholders to allow seamless and faster adoption of new technology.
Credit – RSSB – Annual Health & Safety Report 2019/20
5. How can sustainability be better addressed in the rail industry
The railway is already one of the most sustainable ways to travel or transport goods, but more can still be done. Decarbonisation of the railway is a crucial industry aim with the electrification of existing routes—a crucial step to reduce diesel usage and move to renewable energy supply.
Aside from conventional electrification (wires above the track), there are also some novel battery, hybrid and even hydrogen technologies competing to provide alternative solutions, particularly for routes where electrification may prove difficult. The UK has some of the oldest railway infrastructure (tunnels and bridges) with many built originally for steam trains, which also means it is often the smallest. This means electrification can be a significant challenge due to the limited space available.
6. What has it been like starting at Kloeckner amid lockdown?
Being recruited entirely virtually has been an exciting experience, but one which I think has gone very smoothly from my viewpoint with everything ready before day 1 in my home office. Starting the role has been Busy Busy Busy! A well organised ‘jam-packed’ induction schedule has meant my webcam has been working non-stop. Teams meetings have allowed virtual introductions to the people around our sites and organisation, so we can all get to know each other, and I get to see what we can offer customers. I am more used to being behind the camera rather than in front of it so that in itself has been quite a good learning experience and one which will become more normal as time passes. Being in a business development role, without being able to meet people face-to-face and see their processes in the metal is going to be a challenge, but one which I am going to enjoy finding solutions for. I am confident our digital strengths put us in a strong position to withstand the current market headwinds.
7. What’s the most ambitious rail project you have worked on in your career?
The most headline-grabbing rail project I have been involved in is Crossrail where I was the technical lead supplying all of the rails through the tunnels (~57km). This was virtually all premium grades supplied from both the UK and France to strict time schedules.
The most personally rewarding project was being part of introducing new rail steels to Network Rail, benefiting the customer and supplier, as well as millions of passengers. This was a true industry changing innovation which also received industry recognition too.