With over 15 years of experience Claire has established herself as a respected professional and leader in the industry. Her deep understanding of the rail sector, combined with her expertise in commercial, operational and customer focused roles has enabled Mallatite Rail to deliver effective solutions for clients across the UK.
When did you join the company?
I joined VMS in 2008 as Financial Controller and became involved in the Rail Business around the time that the lightweight products gained acceptance in 2011. My early involvement was mainly supporting customers and making sure orders were delivered on time. The opportunity then arose to become the Business Manager in 2014 and I did not hesitate to move out of finance and become involved in all aspects of the Business.
How long has your company been in business?
Formerly part of Rolls Royce, the business commenced in 1989 supplying reflective flip dot signs. In 1994 the first LED signs were supplied and this was shortly followed by Highways Agency deployed LED signs in 1995.
We then became involved in the rail industry when Railtrack employees observed these new VMS LED Motorway signs and were extremely impressed by the readability and high contrast ratios they presented (even in direct sunlight) and approached Rolls-Royce to ask if we would consider applying our in depth knowledge of optoelectronics and LED control, to design and manufacture products which would replace the existing lineside signals with LED equivalents.
The business departed Rolls Royce in 2003 when the management team acquired it and VMS was established. Our first rail products continued to be developed throughout this transition and a series of trials commenced. While the fundamental challenges of the optical design of road and rail products were similar, the road signs consisted of dozens of processors and communication links providing fault status and logging. Therefore, the technical challenge for VMS was making a complex LED signal which would mimic the simple failure modes of an SL35 lamp with no possibility of presenting a wrong side failure condition. This allowed the VMS signals to be backwards compatible with the extremely limited status reporting of the existing filament lamp control infrastructure.
However, these issues were soon overcome and tested and resulted in our first product acceptance in 2006.
What types of products and services do you offer?
All types lineside signals, indicators and accessories, starting in 2006 with a stacked colour light signal. These signals tell the driver when it’s safe to proceed and following this we now offer a wide range of signalling products which we supply either direct to Network Rail on a Framework contract or to their contractors.
How have the products and services you offer developed over the years?
Once our first product was accepted and deployed, we rapidly introduced more, our banner signal was developed and on-trial within a year and in 2011 we were awarded the Network Rail Partnership Award for Innovation for our range of lightweight signalling equipment. Since then, our product portfolio has continued to increase as we reacted to signalling challenges, most recently addressing different types of environment and space constraints for station areas.
What are some standout projects you’ve been involved in recently?
We are proud to say the resignalling of Birmingham New Street Station and Manchester Piccadilly Station. These projects gave us an opportunity to collaborate with Network Rail and develop products which solved the particular challenges of station areas.
We introduced a compact version of our colour light signal which took all the optical performance of the exiting products but housed them in a smaller enclosure for deployment in lower sector installations and tunnels or even anywhere where there are space constraints. In addition to the size reduction which solved the spatial challenge, VMS also introduced a reduced brightness variant to ensure the signals would function optimally in a station environment which has numerous reflective surfaces. The existing product we offered presented the risks of a train driver misreading the signal, confusion to platform departure staff and dazzling drivers and customers on the platform. We understood these risks and took on the challenge to adapt our products further and, after a series of readability assessments and stakeholder feedback we introduced a short-range signal which is now deployed throughout the station.
Alongside the colour light signal, space constraints also impacted on our existing route indicator range. We were able to navigate the hugely challenging standard required on readability and develop a route indicator which combined the aspects from two products (our Standard, Alphanumeric Route Indicator and Miniature, Alphanumeric Route Indicator) into one, (Combined, Alphanumeric Route Indicator) another space saving solution which has resulted in these products being installed in many station areas. Not only does this product save on space it also saves money as it reduces the cost of deploying two signals.
What is your USP (Unique Selling Point)?
Definitely our collaborative attitude and ability to problem solve and develop new products to meet industry challenges. We never go back to our customer with ‘well that’s what’s available’ we listen, are keen to understand the problem and we apply our innovation skills and industry knowledge to deliver new products.
What do you have planned for the year ahead?
We are currently developing a 12V DC variant of our existing 24V DC colour light signal for a customer who has identified a number of 12V signals in their existing infrastructure which will require imminent replacement. Switching these systems over to the currently established voltages of 110V AC or 24V DC would be both complicated and expensive. It is our intention to deliver this product to solve their problem, but furthermore to ultimately offer this product as a “universal” DC signal which will be capable of being installed in both 12V and 24V applications with no modifications to the product, greatly simplifying ordering and spares holdings.