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Award Winner 2020: In-House Team of the Year

Railway Industry Association

The 2020 PRCA Public Affairs Awards celebrated the best work of the year and below is the category's winning entry.


The Railway Industry Association (RIA) is the main national UK trade body for the railway industry. It represents some 300 rail companies. Coronavirus brought a halt to ‘business as usual’ for the rail industry. Although RIA didn’t envisage at the start of the year that ensuring the wellbeing of our sector would be the key lobbying campaign for 2021, as soon as national lockdown struck in March we realised we needed to go into full campaigning mode.

We are making a submission for this award now because we believe RIA’s public affairs activity, representing and leading the sector’s response, has both safeguarded the interests of many rail businesses and jobs, and ensured that rail has been positioned as one of the key sectors to help lead the UK economic recovery - a position that has been championed by politicians across parties, and which has been mentioned specifically in the forthcoming Spending Review as an area which should receive continued investment.

Key Wins

  • Securing major funding announcements on rail projects including Trans Pennine Route Upgrade and East Coast Digitalisation Programme. Our ‘Speed Up Rail Enhancements’ campaign drew attention to the need to progress rail projects urgently, and in this period we have seen the creation of an Acceleration Unit for transport projects and the publication of the Network Rail Traction Decarbonisation Network Study – making the case for putting rail at the heart of transport decarbonisation plans;
  • Successfully lobbying for train operator’s Emergency Recovery Management Agreements to ensure performance was partly measured on engagement with rail suppliers, resulting in a ‘collaboration clause’ being included;
  • Securing recognition of rail key worker status from Government and support from client organisations, including key worker letters, prompt payment commitments from Network Rail and HS2 and helped work to continue in Scotland after devolved administration halted construction work on rail projects;
  • Bringing key Government and client bodies to the table including operators and TfL, through lobbying of or engagement with the UK Parliament and London Assembly Transport Committees. RIA also organised regular meetings over the lockdown period with Ministers including Rail Minister, including meetings with Business Minister, HS2 Minister, Transport Decarbonisation Minister, Export Minister and Investment Minister. These meetings secured commitment that where work could be done safely it should be done – Network Rail Chief Executive Andrew Haines said that 25% of all infrastructure investment in lockdown was completed by the rail sector;
  • Continued to focus on trade and exports – recognising opportunities to grow exports, with more than 10 export webinars organised. Ensured members had a seat at the table for discussions on EU Exit preparations and future trade and investment planning;
  • Saw RIA membership revenues grow during the 2020, over a period when many trade associations have found retention difficult. 52 members joined RIA over the period, including several large suppliers, and the number of members who said they were ‘really happy’ with membership saw a high of 52%, with 84% saying they were really or quite happy.

Specific Award Criteria

Strategy and Research

The Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown provided little time for organisations to plan. However, RIA quickly adapted to the new situation, amending its 2020 business plan to focus on three core areas as part of its external offer: i) Ensuring members were supported in their Coronavirus preparations; ii) Navigating the ‘Business as Usual’ agenda; and iii). Promoting RIA’s activities in a virtual environment.


Our Policy Director Kate Jennings was asked to clear her desk and take on the role of Lead Coronavirus-Response Coordinator in the first half of the year, and led on this work with support from the wider RIA Team. RIA’s Coronavirus response was delivered in three key stages:

Stage One: Lockdown implemented

RIA acted quickly in the first few weeks of lockdown to deliver the following:

  • Deliver 32 e-briefings to RIA members to ensure their organisations were able to manage the emerging situation;
  • Secure regular meetings with the Rail Minister and key client bodies to ensure any supplier concerns were heard and acted on.
  • Provide an online hub for RIA members to keep informed of the latest policy updates, with a thank you message secured from the Rail Minister.

Stage Two: Political engagement during lockdown

As the lockdown continued over a number of weeks, RIA worked to move its political activity online, working to secure key wins for suppliers:

  • Further meetings with the Rail Minister as well as the Business Minister, HS2 Minister, and Transport Decarbonisation Minister, to ensure rail suppliers were able to directly relay concerns over the lockdown period; and also with Exports Minister to discuss how UK rail can help the trade drive we part of UK economic recovery.
  • Conducting several ‘virtual’ site visits for MPs as part of RIA’s Rail Fellowship Programme initiative, so they were able to see the work of the industry and how it was responding to Coronavirus.
  • Ensuring rail stakeholders were engaging with issues raised by RIA members, including highlighting to Parliament’s Transport Committee on the limited engagement of TfL and operators with suppliers and questions to be asked to TfL directors at a London Assembly Transport Committee. Media activity on the back of this engagement prompted much greater collaboration with these partners, with TfL engaging more closely and a stimulation included in the new Emergency Recovery Management Agreements (ERMAS) that operators would collaboration with suppliers.
  • Working to get rail work restarted in Scotland, by bringing rail suppliers together with Transport Scotland.

Stage Three: Campaigning for rail’s role in an economic recovery

As lockdown progressed, it was clear the Government would be keen on spurring an economic recovery in the coming year. RIA has placed rail at the forefront of this issue, including:

  • Launching our ‘Speed Up Rail Enhancements’ campaign calling for Government to speed up projects. As part of the campaign RIA met with a senior Number 10 Transport Advisor to advise on speeding up projects and saw key wins including major projects being sped up and a new Acceleration Unit being established in DfT.
  • Delivering complimentary communications to support RIA’s lobbying asks, including working with Transport Committee Member Chris Loder writing in The Times;
  • Delivering a full virtual Party Conference programme at Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and SNP Party Conferences (upcoming) with the key transport spokespeople, using these opportunities to highlight the need to accelerate projects.

Creativity and Originality

We believe we showed creativity, agility and speed in our Public Affairs activity during Coronavirus, shown by the key wins listed above and our support from RIA members. For example, hosting virtual ‘site visits’ during the lockdown period enabled MPs to engage with rail suppliers and gave them key insights into the challenges Coronavirus posed.

Budget & Resource

RIA conducted the above activity within existing budgets; and as there were no physical events actually reduced some of our normal costs. RIA Policy Director Kate Jennings and Public Affairs & PR Director Max Sugarman were the main leads on this activity, and were supported by RIA’s Senior Policy Manager Damian Testa, with strategic advice and direction provided by RIA’s Chief Executive Darren Caplan.