Speakers - High Speed Rail Education Interchange 2020

Day 1

See below for details of our three exciting Day 1 keynotes and challenge panel experts. The Research Challenge session brought together five panellists to discuss issues affecting HSR including Economics, Resilience, Integration, Power and Digitalisation. 


Mark Thurston, CEO at HS2 Ltd 
As the CEO of High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd, Mark has the privilege and ultimate responsibility for leading the company that has been charged with delivering a new high speed railway that will connect the major cities of the UK.

The vision is for HS2 to be a catalyst for growth across Britain and become the backbone of Britain’s rail network. It will better connect the country’s major cities and economic hubs and will help deliver a stronger, more balanced economy, better able to compete on the global stage. It will open up local and regional markets and will attract investment and improve job opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people across the whole country.

HS2 Ltd began operations in January 2009. The company currently employs around 1,600 people, with the majority of staff working at its headquarters in Birmingham. Mark joined HS2 Ltd in March 2017; he has some 30 years’ experience including leadership roles in engineering, project and programme management and business operations.

Having worked for client, consulting and delivery organisations, Mark has a successful track record across a mix of major organisations and investment programmes and worked on both the London 2012 Olympics and Crossrail. He was previously the European MD of engineering and projects company CH2M. Mark started his career as a technician apprentice on the London Underground. He is a Visiting Professor at the Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management at UCL and an honorary fellow at both the Association for Project Management and the Institution of Civil Engineers. In 2019 he received an honorary doctorate of technology at the University of East London.

Mark Thurston

Inaki Uriarte, New Operations and Innovation Director for Transport Mobility, Euskotrenbideak-Ferrocarriles Vascos
Director of the new operations and innovation department of the transport company Euskotren, which covers regional trains, trams, metro and bus operations. Inaki is responsible for the company´s digital transformation in accordance with the new directives and regulations of the European Union (4 railway package), managing projects from the regulatory and operational view to integrate regional and urban transport services for door-to door service providing relevant information for customers. Including the planning of resources, booking, administrative tasks, tracking and tracing, invoicing, etc. 

Inaki is an expert in commissioning, system integration and risk identification between different suppliers and contractors, company structure definition and creation of partnerships for railway operation, as well as defining the conditions for rolling stock acquisition and homologation, PSO governance and contracts definition. 

He has extensive experience in transport and urban mobility projects, start-up operations and implementation of metros, electric buses, trams and regional train services, development of financial feasibility analysis, environmental and social impact studies, carbon footprint analysis, urban development impact, demand studies, design projects, construction, operation and maintenance of rolling stock in several countries.

Inaki Uriarte

Luisa Moisio, Director of Research and Development at RSSB 
Luisa is responsible for the cross-industry programme run by RSSB and funded predominantly by the Department for Transport, which provides answers and solutions spanning a broad range of engineering, operations and sustainability topics. 

Luisa Moisio joined RSSB in 2005 to improve the evaluation of changes to standards. She moved to the R&D department in 2008 to enhance the in-house analytical and research capabilities and became Head of Programme Strategy and Analysis for Research & Development in 2013. She was appointed Director of Research and Development in 2017. 

Since 2014 Luisa has also been a member of the organising committee of the World Congress of Rail Research, and is currently its Chair in preparation for the next Congress which will be hosted in Birmingham in 2022. She is also closely involved in the UK Innovation and Research Network (UKRRIN) which fosters and brings together the Centres of Excellence in rail research with supply chain and the wider industry. She has recently played a key role in the newly released Rail Technical Strategy. 

Luisa has an MSc in Decision Science and Operation Research from the London School of Economics, and a degree in International Sciences and Economics.

Luisa Moisio

Research Challenges

Panel Host - Professor Clive Roberts, Head of School of Engineering and Director of BCRRE
Clive is Professor of Railway Systems and Head of the School of Engineering at the University of Birmingham.  He is Director of the University’s Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, which has over 160 researchers. He works extensively with the railway industry and academia in Britain and overseas.   

Clive leads a broad portfolio of research aimed at improving the performance of railway systems, including leading the UK Railway Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) - a £92M academia/industry collaboration, as well as initiatives to encourage SMEs to work in the rail sector. In 2017 his group was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education for supporting the UK and international railway industries. His main research interests lie in the areas of railway systems research including: railway simulation, future control strategies, traffic management and operations, condition monitoring, data integration and cyber security, power system design and energy efficiency, and overall system integration.   

Clive Roberts

Economics - Professor John Preston, Professor of Rail Transport at the University of Southampton
John Preston has been Professor of Rail Transport at the University of Southampton since 2006. His research interests include demand and cost modelling, operations research, regulatory studies, land-use and environment interactions and economic appraisal and evaluation. He has held over 150 research grants and contracts, worth over £19 million, successfully supervised over 30 doctoral students and published around 350 articles, book chapters, conference and working papers. He is Co-Chair of the World Conference on Transport Research Society’s (WCTR) Rail Special Interest Group and a Committee Member of the International Association of Rail Operations Research (IAROR). 

John Preston

Resilience - John Dora, Director at Climate Sense, Founder of John Dora Consulting 
John Dora has thirty-nine years’ experience in managing infrastructure, including flood risk management and asset management of railway structures. He is a recognised international expert on climate change adaptation and standards, with clients including the UK Met Office, World Bank, and the International Standards Organisation. Before founding John Dora Consulting in 2012, he was Network Rail’s Principle Systems Engineer on Climate Change, having previously worked in water management and extreme weather mitigation roles. John is also an accomplished lecturer, designing and delivering courses on sustainability, asset management and resilience at a number of UK Universities. 

John Dora

Power - Dr Pietro Tricoli, Senior Lecturer in Electrical Power & Control at the University of Birmingham 
Pietro Tricoli is currently a Senior Lecturer in electrical power and control with the Department of Electronic, Electrical, and Systems Engineering, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, U.K. He has authored more than 100 scientific papers published in international journals and conference proceedings. His current research interests include the modelling of storage devices for road electric vehicles, railways, and rapid transit systems, wind and photovoltaic generation, railway electrification systems and the modelling and control of multilevel converters.

Pietro is a member of the IEEE Industrial Electronics Society and the Energy Institute. He is the Web and Publication Chair of the International Conference on Clean Electrical Power. He is the Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Feature Editor of the IET Journal Renewable Power Generation. He is a Registered Professional Engineer in Italy.

Pietro Tricoli

Integration - Toufic Machnouk, Programme Director for the East Coast Digital Programme at Network Rail
Toufic is leading this cross-industry partnership that will transform performance on the East Coast Mainline, one of the UK's vital economic railway arteries, with digital signalling. 

Having started his career in infrastructure management and operations, Toufic went on to deliver major investment projects and industry programmes. He worked on the Reading redevelopment delivering the first new multi-traction train maintenance facility for the Great Western Railway. His team was recognised for breakthroughs in safety performance, industry and supplier collaboration, and successfully delivering a cross-industry change, receiving national awards. More recently Toufic worked on the Crossrail project where he oversaw upgrades to the existing networks train control systems, including the introduction of digital signalling into the Heathrow branch, and delivered major infrastructure upgrades in the Greater London area. 

He is passionate about technology and skills development, lecturing at universities and colleges, and mentoring people from across the industry. He holds a degree in Engineering and Design, has completed the accelerated business leaders programme with Warwick University and is completing his executive MBA with Bath University. 

Toufic Machnouk
Luca FracassiDigitalisation - Luca Fracassi, Head of Business Development, Strategy and Innovation at Siemens

Luca Fracassi is the Head of Business Development, Strategy, and Innovation - Digital within Siemens Mobility. The mantra at Siemens Mobility is to provide a great service to passengers, moving people sustainably and seamlessly from the first mile to the last; digitalisation plays a central role in achieving that! 

Luca has worked within Siemens for several years, firstly involved in signalling and train control projects and more recently within the rolling stock business unit. Within his current role he is responsible for setting the digital services strategy for Siemens Mobility in the UK. 

The main objective within the Siemens Mobility Digital Team is to make trains intelligent to improve the lives of passengers, operators, maintainers, and asset owners, day by day, by providing them with actionable information and insights. 

Day 2

See below for details of our three exciting Day 2 keynotes and challenge panel experts. The Education Challenge session brought together five panellists to discuss issues affecting education and training provision for HSR including Staffing, Soft Skills, Digitalisation, EDI and Internationalisation. 


Francois Davenne, Director General of the International Union of Railways  
Francois Davenne graduated from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications d’Evry in 1988 and from the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA) in 1999. Throughout his career, he has consistently promoted interdisciplinary as a key factor for success. Having gained experience in international satellite telecommunications, he initially held various roles in the housing sector, making use of his strong financial and legal skills. He was involved in policy and regulation of the sector and managed key operational programmes, most notably for the city of Paris. 

After three years with the French Ministry of Transport, working on railway safety and regulation, with an emphasis on European regulations, he was elected in 2012 as Secretary General of OTIF, the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail. From early 2013 to the end of 2018, he promoted interdisciplinary and partnership building in order to expand and develop the uniform regulations for international carriage by rail. 

François Davenne

Deb Carson, Head of Operations at High Speed Rail Group (HSRG)
Deb is a freelance consultant and has worked in the rail sector for around 7 years (so a newcomer to rail!). She is Head of Operations for the High Speed Rail Group (HSRG) - an industry body established to promote the successful delivery of high speed rail in the UK, and is the strategic lead for stakeholder engagement for the group. Deb established and runs the HSR Apprentice Network, which is a unique network designed to support diversity and inclusion in the sector and encourage cross-discipline collaboration within the HSR supply chain. Deb is also Project Coordinator at the rail policy Think Tank Greengauge 21, and a Director of the Rail Innovation Group.  

Previously Deb worked in Local Government leading on diversity and inclusion initiatives. Deb spent a number of years working for the Local Government Association (LGA) as the strategic lead on the design and delivery of organisational learning programmes both locally, sub-regionally and nationally across a range of policy areas.  She continues to support the work of the LGA as an Associate.

Deb Carson

Richard Thorp Engineering Director High Speed 1 Ltd (HS1) 
Richard is the Engineering Director at HS1 Ltd, with over 20 years’ experience in developing asset management capabilities for both UK main-line and high-speed railways. Responsible for providing client leadership to HS1’s supply chain, fulfilling the Asset Stewardship objectives in the concession agreement and ensuring that HS1 Ltd continues to protect, enhance and grow the asset.   

Richard has previously worked as the Infrastructure Maintenance Delivery Manager leading a multi-disciplined team on a busy part of the network, as well as Head of Signalling Control and Communications Engineering, Route Asset Manager (Signals) and Route Asset Systems and Integration Manager at Network Rail - leading the development of a combined asset management plan for Anglia route.   

Richard Thorp

Dyan Crowther, CEO at HS1
Prior to joining HS1, Dyan was the Chief Operating Officer at Govia Thameslink Railway. Dyan has worked in several Senior Director roles at Network Rail including Route Managing Director of the West Coast Main Line and Director of Operations. She has over 30 years’ experience in the rail industry. Dyan, 57, has a Masters in Transport and Logistics from Salford University and is a member of the Chartered Institute for Marketing and Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management. She is also a qualified Executive Coach. Dyan has extensive experience in the Boardroom having sat on the Board of an NHS Trust for 5 years, been a Trustee for the Railway Children registered charity, and been a member of the British Transport Police Authority. Dyan is currently NED for East West Railway, a Member of the Advisory Panel to Crossrail, a Trustee for Women in Rail and Chair of NSAR. Originally from Wiltshire, Dyan has three children and enjoys cycling, running, extreme walking and travel. Dyan is an active mentor and coach and is passionate about helping people develop their leadership skills.

Dyan Crowther

Education Challenges

Panel Host - Dr Holly Foss, Director of Education at BCRRE
Holly Foss is lecturer in Railway Systems Education and Director of Education in Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, University of Birmingham. She leads the BCRRE teaching group and is responsible for internal, external, and international programmes on Railway Systems.

Holly Foss

Staffing - Sharon Odetunde, Head of Research Partnerships at RSSB Rail, UKRRIN 
Sharon is a railway engineering professional with experience in track design, infrastructure and rolling stock maintenance and R&D management and implementation. Focussed on developing solutions for the rail industry, covering a broad range of challenges. Sharon has been with RSSB’s Research and Development team since 2013, leading research projects delivered in partnership with academia and international research bodies. She is involved in leading the coordinating hub of the UK Innovation and Research Network (UKRRIN), bringing together Centres of Excellence in rail research with supply chain and the wider industry. Sharon is a passionate advocate of careers in rail and works with local schools and colleges to promote STEM subjects.  

Sharon Odetunde

Soft Skills - Neil Robertson, CEO at the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR) 
Neil joined the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR) in 2015, from the utility sector where he was CEO of the Energy & Utility Skills Group. Before that he was CEO of the British Institute of Innkeeping. 

Prior to these sectoral CEO roles, he held senior positions in government departments for education and business where had responsibilities in skills, employability, English and migration, regional economic development and European Structural Funds. 

Neil has also worked with Babcock, City & Guilds and the Scottish Qualifications Authority. NSAR’s current priorities are workforce planning, standard setting, company support and quality assurance of training and assessments. In his spare time, Neil likes riding motorbikes and planting trees. 

Neil Robertson

Digitalisation - Lucy Prior, Business Engagement Director at 3Squared
Lucy started her railway career as a sales executive within the train build and maintenance world, and since then she has held a number of commercially-focussed roles working in the rolling stock and infrastructure sub supply-chains.  She progressed to a board member of the Rail Alliance, where she actively worked to support and mentor SMEs and new entrants in to rail to help them navigate this complex market.  It was during this time that Lucy became actively involved in supporting the Rail Supply Group with the creation of the Rail Sector Deal, ensuring that the wider supply chain was aware of its role in achieving the deal’s ambitions.  At that time she also worked closely with the Department for International Trade, supporting companies on their export journeys and as a result was awarded an MBE for services to rail export in the 2018 Birthday Honours List. 

Lucy is now Business Engagement Director of 3Squared, working alongside the company’s founders to drive the ongoing digitalisation of rail, working with Network Rail, freight and passenger operators and Tier 1 contractors. 

Lucy holds a number of voluntary roles: she is the current vice-chair of RIA’s SME group, sits on the executive of North Rail Industry Leaders, with a focus on its skills and digital workstreams, is an active ambassador for the YRP and Railway Children, is a Women in Transport mentor and leads the Rail Supply Group Export workstream’s peer to peer mentoring programme, supporting the RSG’s aims of increasing exports and inward investment. 

Lucy holds an BA in Modern Languages and European Studies and an MSc in Leadership and Management.  She is mum to two young children, enjoys walking in the Peaks and is really missing live music. 

Lucy Prior

EDI - Jan Peters, Managing Director at Katalytik 
Dr Jan Peters is a change agent, catalyst and consultant with experience of higher education, engineering manufacturing and public policy. Alongside her PhD in electronic materials at Southampton University she began visiting schools and championing the participation of women in science and engineering. President of the Women’s Engineering Society from 2008 – 2011 she was made an MBE for services to women in engineering and science in the 2017 New Year Honours List. Jan is also a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and has helped over 3000 people on their journey to be their best self. She has written several reports, the latest is the UCL and Royal Academy of Engineering report on Designing inclusive engineering education. Jan holds the role of Visiting Professor at the Open University and is Managing Director of Katalytik. 

Jan Peters

Internationalisation - Zena Green, International Teaching Fellow at BCRRE
Zena is an International Teaching Fellow in Railway Systems Education at the University of Birmingham.  She has over 15 years’ experience of working in education delivery both in the UK and internationally, working with K-12, Undergraduate and Post Graduate students.  

Zena’s main interests lie in the development of novel teaching and learning methodologies, with a particular interest in digital and distance learning.  Her current work focuses on the design, management and delivery of courses that take into account the challenges and opportunities presented to 21st century learners.  She is particularly interested in increasing the accessibility of higher education to a broader range of students and introducing increased digital content. 

Zeena Green

Day 3

See below for details of our three exciting Day 3 keynotes.


Professor T C Kao, Research Professor, Director - High Speed Rail Systems, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
Dr. Kao has a long history of involvement in the Taiwan High Speed Rail Project. In 1990, he was involved in the feasibility study of the Project. In 1994, He served as the Advisor to the Provisional Office of the Taiwan High Speed Rail Project. After the Taiwan High Speed Rail Project was privatised in 1997, he started an 11 year career in participating in the design, construction and operation of the Project. Since April 2008, Dr. Kao taught at National Taiwan University the classes of “High Speed Rail Engineering”, “Integration Project Management” and “Contract Management in Practice”, with particular illustrations of his experience in the Taiwan High Speed Rail project. Since 2009, Dr. Kao also served as the Director for the inter-discipline “Railway Technology Research Center” of the University. In 2010 spring, Dr. Kao travelled to the United States and taught “High Speed Rail Engineering” at University of Illinois. This is the first such class has been taught in the North America.

Tsung-Chung Kao

Professor Roderick Smith, Professor of Railway Engineering at Imperial College London and Chair of the Future Railway Research Centre
Professor Roderick A Smith, ScD, FREng., is currently Emeritus Professor of Railway Engineering, Imperial College London and Chair of the Future Railway Research Centre. He was Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department for Transport from 2012 to May 2014 and 126th  President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers 2011-12. He is currently an Infrastructure Commissioner for Wales. He was previously a lecturer in the Cambridge University Engineering Department (1980-88) and Professor of Mechanical and Process Engineering, University of Sheffield (1988-2000), including a period as Head of Department (1992-95) , Head of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College (2000-2005). He was a consultant to the Board of British Rail (1992-96), and before that to the Board of British Steel. He is frequently called as an expert witness in legal cases. He served for eight years as a Trustee of the National Museum of Science and Industry, which includes the Science Museum and the National Railway Museum in York, to which he arranged the gift of an original series zero shinkansen from Japan. He works with many major railway organisations in Japan. He has published extensively on structural integrity, railway engineering and energy and is frequently invited to address international meetings and conferences. He is director of his own consulting company, Roderick A Smith Consulting Engineer and has advised on many engineering issues throughout the world. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Universities of Sheffield and Lincoln and is an Honorary Fellow of Queens’ College Cambridge. 

Roderick Smith

Ernesto SiciliaChairman and Managing Director, Trenitalia UK Ltd
Ernesto has been Managing Director of Trenitalia UK Ltd since October 2016, and led the company’s entry into the UK rail market when it acquired Essex train operator c2c in February 2017. He led also, in partnership with First Group, the winning tender for West Coast Partnership awarded in August 2019 and he is part of the Board of the Joint Venture that manages from December 2019 the Avanti West Coast services connecting London with towns and cities across England, North Wales and Scotland.

Ernesto has worked for Ferrovie dello Stato Group, owning group of Trenitalia, since 2001 in a variety of strategy roles. Before leading Trenitalia’s UK subsidiary, he spent five years as the business’ Chief Strategy Officer. In his career he developed special skills in mid-term planning, investment evaluation, M&A project, PSO contracts, market analysis, strategic marketing, digital strategies and sustainability.

Before joining FS Group, Ernesto worked for international energy company for 10 years, where he was involved in planning, investment and strategy activities.

Ernesto Sicilia