Blog Type, Fellowship Blog, IPT Blog | February 2017

Iain Stewart MP Reaches His Final Stop with Eurostar

Written by Iain Stewart MP, January 2017

In order to aid my work in Parliament, I have recently undertaken a Fellowship with the Industry and Parliament Trust (IPT), focusing on the rail industry.  The IPT Fellowship programme is designed to provide MPs, MEPs, peers and senior parliamentary staff with a unique insight into business and industry. This opportunity has enabled me to gain a greater understanding of one of the key components of the UK’s transport sector and assist me with my work on the Transport Select Committee.

Members on the Fellowship Scheme, like myself, are able to work with one or more organisations – from multinational corporations and FTSE100 companies to social enterprises and government agencies, over the course of 15 days. Throughout my Fellowship I have had the pleasure of spending time with companies such as BP, Thales, Network Rail, Go Ahead, CrossCountry and now, finally, Eurostar.

As part of my final Fellowship visit on Thursday 10 October, I had the opportunity to visit Eurostar’s Temple Mills depot. Opened in 2007, the site is the home of a £402 million maintenance depot for Eurostar sets. Located near Stratford International and on the edge of the Olympic Park, it replaced the original Eurostar ‘North Pole’ to coincide with the opening of the new international terminal at St Pancras. Thousands of passengers use the high-speed international rail service every day, as Eurostar continues to be a valuable transport option for thousands of travellers, including my constituents, travelling to destinations such as Brussels, Lille, Paris, Lyon and Marseille.

During the visit I had the chance to speak at great length with Max Van Cauwenberghe, Head of Fleet Planning, about the importance of the depot in ensuring that the main maintenance lines remain efficient. I was also given a tour of the space by Sergio Barcena, Head of Engineering, including the train washer, spare part stores and the full range of technical equipment required to ensure that Eurostar’s high-speed trains continue to provide a reliable and high quality service for customers. It was a very informative afternoon.

Overall, it was fascinating to see how this facility ensures that vital requirements and standards are maintained year-round. We need a modern rail network to support economic growth and productivity, and to help people get around quickly and safely. I was pleased to see first-hand how Eurostar are playing their part in the High Speed Rail Project which is the biggest rail modernisation since Victorian times. This project will provide much needed extra capacity, more services and better journeys for all travellers.

I am passionate about the development of the High Speed network in the UK. HS2 has significant challenges to overcome – not least the inevitable consequences for existing classic services using Euston during the construction phase of the project. However, the enhanced knowledge afforded to me by my Fellowship will better equip me to scrutinise these and help to ensure that this new network will realise its enormous potential for the rail infrastructure and economic development of this country.

In addition to benefiting my work on the Transport Select Committee, my Fellowship visits such as thisenhance my knowledge and ability to contribute to discussions about individual rail projects. I am passionately pro-rail and I actively participate in various schemes designed to improve rail services in this country.

At a local level, I have recently welcomed the publishing of the invitation to tender for the West Midlands Rail Franchise, which includes the Birmingham to London route that serves Wolverton, Milton Keynes and Bletchley. This should lead to significant improvements for my constituents.

Similarly, for the consultation on the new InterCity West Coast franchise – which also serves Milton Keynes – I was able to use my increased knowledge of the industry to create a survey for my constituents to input their comments and suggestions.

Another significant rail project for my constituency is East-West Rail, which seeks to re-open the Varsity Line between Oxford and Cambridge. I established the All Party Parliamentary Group for the project soon after I was elected in 2010 and I have been pleased to see the line assume a high priority in the industry’s investment plans for the future; most recently in the National Infrastructure Commission’s proposals for developing the economic potential of the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge corridor, and Chris Grayling’s announcement of a vertically integrated company to design, build and operate the line.

Finally, I would like to thank the IPT for their hard work in organising this Fellowship in the Rail Industry and making sure that we bridge the gap between parliamentarians and the business community. My work on the Transport Select Committee and my knowledge and understanding of the sector has been greatly increased by this Fellowship and I would strongly encourage other members to get involved with the Trust’s work.

This article is also available to view in February's edition of Rail Professional.