Atkins’ CEO Uwe Krueger: This is the decade of the worldwide railway

Atkins’ chief executive officer, Prof Dr Uwe Krueger, delivered the keynote speech at annual rail conference Den Danske Bane in Denmark today, where he explained how continued development of the world’s railways is vital for our future.

In his presentation ‘Railway development worldwide’, Uwe described how the global population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050 and by then 75 per cent of people will live in cities, so rail infrastructure must act as the “interconnectors” of cities in the future, supporting further urbanisation, enabling economic progress and the growth and development of society at large.

Uwe said:

“Urbanisation requires evolutionary change as we seek to adapt the vast majority of our existing assets as well as creating new infrastructure that must cope with challenges we cannot yet fully predict. This is, I believe, the first driver for railway today.

“The railway’s potential today is in the creation of not only national but international main routes. The development of these routes will bind together societies and economies and support continued growth.”

Uwe detailed in his speech how designing transport infrastructure capable of meeting the growing urbanisation demand will require overcoming several challenges, including attracting the best engineers against a backdrop of a global shortage of skilled workers and developing new cutting edge technology to meet cost reductions.

Global rail development will also require innovative thinking, with a focus on adaptable and smart solutions which prioritise low carbon design and energy efficiency, whilst still meeting the highest standards of quality and safety. Collaboration and partnerships between academia and business will be fundamental in achieving this, as modern railways are so complex that a broad spread of expertise will be required.

Uwe gave several examples of how Atkins is already working closely with various institutions, including:

  • Atkins’ partnership with Heriot-Watt University to establish a High Speed Rail Centre of Excellence in the UK
  • Atkins’ economic and lecturing support of the rail education programme at the Danish Technical University through the Danish Rail Association
  • Atkins’ work with several rail related schools in Sweden, ranging from the technical institutes, through to smaller regional centres of higher education and the National Rail School, to help develop their educational programmes.

Uwe concluded:

“Our work today on planning and designing rail networks will be judged by future generations – improving connectivity is vital to the future-proofing of society and managing urbanisation.

“We must ensure that as engineers we are sitting next to the politicians, the economists, the scientists, informing robust decision making and helping to put everything in context to help deliver transformational railways that people want to use.”

A round-up of Uwe’s speech is available on our thought leadership app, Angles, here.