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Leaders gather to help shape industry Friday July 23, 2021

“Why does the Government continue to provide funding to support light rail? Because we recognise that it’s a very attractive form of green transport, it integrates extremely well with other networks and because it really has the ability to play a critical role in drawing in business, investment and opening areas up to opportunity in terms of our environmental ambitions. It just connects people in so many ways.”

Those were the words of Light Rail Minister Baroness Vere, delivered in a virtual Keynote to industry leaders at the 15th Annual UK Light Rail Conference and exhibition, organised by light and urban rail specialists Mainspring and held on 13-14 July in Gateshead.

Blending both live and virtual elements, the first major in-person gathering of the sector in 18 months was supported by Nexus, Transport North East and key manufacturing and supply chain partners, with technical visits and additional activities across a packed two-day schedule allowing participants to reconnect after almost so many months of enforced hibernation.

Key discussion points focused around the challenges operators face in our ‘bounce back’ from the pandemic; industry collaboration on bringing down scheme costs in a constrained financial environment; reframing the debate around light rail investment; updates on both current and potential future schemes; and the role of technology and innovation in helping to deliver safer, more inclusive and more efficient transport systems.

Outlining his region’s bold and ambitious future mobility plans, Tom Gifford, Head of Mass Transit at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, noted: “This year’s UK Light Rail Conference was really well-organised given the continued challenges which we all face, offering an invaluable opportunity to share experience and expertise with colleagues from across the transport sector in person after so many months of virtual meetings.”

Event Chair Ian Brown CBE summed up the mood of the event after a very positive two days: “This year’s Annual Light Rail conference from Mainspring was not just a return to normal, it was a move to a degree of cohesiveness that I have not seen before as the light rail industry positions itself as a part of the solution to wider pressing issues in the UK.

“A serious and relevant agenda, the Conference was a great briefing on equipping us all to go out and articulate the increased relevance of light rail in a post-Covid world.”

Matt Johnston, Managing Director of Mainspring, added: “The past 18 months have been incredibly challenging for both the transport and live events sectors. We are delighted with the feedback participant at this year’s UK Light Conference, and wish to offer a huge thank you our partners, exhibitors, delegates and suppliers who enabled us to run such a safe, engaging and productive event.”

A detailed report on the 15th Annual UK Light Rail Conference is in the forthcoming edition of Tramways & Urban Transit – for details on how to obtain a copy, or the UK Light Rail Conference and future light rail events, please contact