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As of June 2023, the IET assumed the rotating roles of chair and secretariat for the Railway Engineers Forum, or REF as it is known within the member Institutions. 

 Founded 10 years ago, the REF includes representation from those professional institutions with an interest in promoting engineering best practice in the railway industry.  The original aim of the REF was to harmonise the activities of the constituent Institutions, enabling them to devise and implement programmes of activities that would support the railway community, regardless of their professional affiliation. This role would encompass cross-promotion of conferences, seminars, lectures, training, information services, publications and statements of policy to Government and other Regulatory Bodies.  Essentially, the REF would provide a single point of contact allowing professionals in the industry to find details of relevant events hosted by each of the member institutions. 

The way we manage our professional lives has changed over the last decade, and as we embark on our two-year role as the chair of the REF, the IET Railway Technical Network is looking to revisit the mission of the REF, and redefine what we do.

So, for those in the Railway arena, what role can the REF carve for itself from here on?  What do you think can be done to add greater practical value to the REF in a modern industrial setting and, ultimately, how can it best benefit its members and the rail industry as a whole?   How can REF make best use of its unique assets (the facilities of the member institutions and their combined expert membership) to where should we position the REF to create relevance within the industry? 



  • Like Andy Millar, I had never heard of the Railway Engineers Forum, but I would definitely be interested as I'm a Systems Engineer who nowadays works mainly on Rail projects (NR, LU, DLR etc...)

  • Good Morning/Evening, further to my previous messages below, I am a fellow of four member Institutions involved in REF (IET, IRSE, PWI and CIRO) and having been given the honour of Fellowship in these professional bodies, I have endeavored to be an active member to try to bring benefit/add value to our great industry. I do below that REF, if empowered sufficiently, has a major role to play in resolving issues that face us, particularly with respect to 'cross-functional interfaces, integration and requirements definition'. With the emergence of ever more capable technologies, there is a great opportunity to leverage on these to the benefir of all REF members, and more importantly to the infrastructure owners, operators, the supply chain, Governments, and importantly our customers.

    I believe there should be a professional working party/committee set up under the umbrella of REF and supported by all member institutions to further this.

    Best regards

  • I do believe there is a gap that requires filling currently, that being a forum whereby all disciplines (Civil, Structural, Infrastructure, Systems and Operations should come together to discuss issues, with the intent of improving ourselves both at a delivery of projects phase and in operation. 

    There is a significant amount of lessons to be learned that are in the common domain, however, rarely are they truly captured and therefore shared with the broader railway community. I'm certain there are those that would be willing to participate, were we to afford them an appropriate forum/committee in which to air these.

    Very best wishes

  • I note the comment raised by Andy (Millar) below, and would concur with some elements that he raises. 

  • First off, I had never even heard of REF before I saw this blog post! Which given my role in the rail industry (including the fact that I'm a member of two of the member institutes) is...interesting. So making those of us in the industry aware that REF even exists would be a very good start!

    We do need far more cross-discipline discussion in the UK rail industry, and useful though the work carried out by RSSB and RIA is in supporting those discussions I still feel there is a gap in general background best practice knowledge sharing. Modern rail infrastructure relies on the effective integration of all engineering disciplines signalling, electrical, civil, systems and safety engineering (plus Scada, telecomms, etc etc), yet all too often these disciplines sit in their own areas until forced to work together. In an ideal world, pulling these disciplines together to consider approaches to working together more effectively would seem exactly the sort of role that the PEIs were originally set up for.

    The big advantage we have in the rail industry is that so much of the engineering is "open book". We all face the same challenges, what we do is typically already open to scrutiny, and it's well known joke that we all rotate around the various companies anyway! So there is a great opportunity for REF to enable  (relatively) free and frank discussions about how to best solve our present and upcoming problems.

    The challenge, I suspect, is getting people around the table prepared to admit that we as an industry have problems. A really good start would be for REF to convene SWOT analyses for the technical aspects of the rail industry - if the risks and challenges (and opportunities) can be open and honestly discussed and identified then I suspect there will be a lot of will to solve them. Ok, there will still be no money to solve them, but that's the clever bit of engineering - solving something with nothing!