Driving innovation and growth in the Stratford District

Originally published by Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Hub, January 2023

Ben Ackroyd, Chief Operating Officer at Porterbrook, is one of the speakers at the Driving Innovation and Growth Summit in Wellesbourne on February 17. In this blog, he outlines the significant investment the company has made in the Stratford District which has also benefited the local supply chain and the exciting innovations taking place at Porterbrook.

“I’ve been hugely impressed by the vision and ambition of Stratford-on-Avon District Council since Porterbrook started working in the district nearly two years ago. There is a strong aspiration to drive local economic development by forging links between the public and private sector as well as leveraging the very best academic expertise.

“Porterbrook own almost a quarter of the national passenger rail fleet and innovation is at the heart of our mission to help deliver a safe, efficient and sustainable railway. We have an established reputation for delivering new technologies, such as battery, hybrid and hydrogen powered trains. These innovations support government commitments to achieve Net Zero by 2050, improve air quality, reduce emissions, and improve the rail network.

“We have invested significantly to upgrade the 135-acre Long Marston Rail Innovation Centre to enable the development and testing of new solutions for passenger and freight vehicles. These improvements have strengthened the centre’s role as an important storage, training, research and development facility for the UK rail industry.

“Some of the most exciting innovations taking place in UK rail are being led by our talented engineers and supply chain partners at the site. Our ground-breaking HydroFLEX, the UK’s first tri-mode battery, electric and hydrogen train, was built and extensively tested at Long Marston before being showcased at COP26 environment summit in Glasgow in November 2021. Visitors to the train included the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and future King Charles III.

“The community and businesses in and around Long Marston have played a vital role in supporting us since we took over last year. With access to key skills in the surrounding area and in an important location in the heart of the country, we’ve spent over £1 million with local Warwickshire businesses. In 2023, we are increasing our investment through a £2 million enhancement of the site’s Asset Management Facility, a fully enclosed space for enhancing and testing trains.

“The company is committed to supporting the local community around our sites and we have partnered with the not-for-profit charity Primary Engineer to deliver their Rail Project to 10 schools in the Long Marston area. This programme, in which our experienced engineers are mentors, is designed to encourage more young people to consider careers in STEM-related professions. We’re also creating work experience opportunities for local secondary school pupils to provide an insight into the operations at Long Marston.

“Sustainability is central to Porterbrook’s business strategy, and with 135-acres of space, the Long Marston Rail Innovation Centre is helping to boost and protect local biodiversity. We’re working closely with Network Rail and other local nature organisations to support their work in the Midlands to protect habitats and open up wildlife corridors.

“As we look towards 2023 and beyond, the Long Marston Innovation Centre and the Stratford district will play a crucial role in the changing landscape of the UK rail industry and help to support national net zero ambitions.”

Find out more about the Long Marston Rail Innovation Centre here.