• First conference for Managing Directors of Avanti West Coast and WCPD
  • Event held in Birmingham next to the HS2 Curzon Street construction site
  • Discussions around rebuilding customer trust, designing rail for the future and driving regional growth

Industry figures and politicians came together to discuss current and future rail ambitions at a major conference organised by the West Coast Partnership (WCP).

The annual WCP Stakeholder Conference was held this week (26 June) at Thinktank Museum, next to the HS2 Curzon Street construction site, in Birmingham. There were discussions around the priorities of the two WCP businesses – Avanti West Coast, who operate services on the West Coast Main Line, and West Coast Partnership Development (WCPD), that works with HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport to develop high-speed rail services.

It was the first stakeholder conference for the Managing Directors of Avanti West Coast and WCPD, Andy Mellors and Shamit Gaiger respectively. Andy talked about his key steps for rebuilding customer trust and growing rail, whilst Shamit highlighted her priorities and challenges around designing future high-speed services.

Attended by around 100 delegates, it was the first in-person conference for the franchise, with three panel sessions featuring a number of speakers. The first titled, “How can we improve rail for customers?” included Philippa Cresswell, Exec Director On Board, Avanti West Coast; James Dean, Route Director, West Coast Main Line South, Network Rail; Andy Bagnall, Chief Executive, Rail Partners; and David Sidebottom, Director, Transport Focus.

The second panel titled, “Adapting for the future rail passenger”, included Joost Noordewier, Customer Experience and Commercial Director, WCPD; Anit Chandarana, Director, Great British Railways Transition Team; Emma Head, Technical Services Delivery Director, HS2 Ltd; and Iain Stewart MP, Chair, Transport Select Committee.

In the final panel session titled “How the rail industry can collaborate to drive regional growth,” included Clare Kingswood, Executive Director Stations, Avanti West Coast; Lord Patrick McLoughlin, Chair, Transport for the North; Maria Machancoses, CEO, Midlands Connect; and Vernon Everitt, Transport Commissioner, Greater Manchester Authority.

Andy Mellors, Managing Director of Avanti West Coast said: “We were delighted to hold this conference, and discuss face-to-face with stakeholders how we can move forward together as well as improve rail for our regions and communities.

“I am thoroughly enjoying my new role and look forward to delivering more for our customers with new Hitachi trains, completing our award-winning Pendolino fleet upgrade and continuing to invest in our communities.

Shamit Gaiger, Managing Director of WCPD said: “The investment in high-speed rail creates significant opportunities for regional growth. To make these new services a success, we need to work in collaboration as one rail industry, and together with local businesses and stakeholders.

“At the conference, I was excited to share some of our challenges, opportunities and current thinking. We will continue to engage with our stakeholders as we evolve because need to ensure that their thoughts are considered into the shaping of our designs, whilst we keep our future customers at the heart of our decision making.”