The Railway Industry Association (RIA) has set out six key priorities for rail’s future, urging the new Prime Minister Liz Truss to adopt. Quadrant Transport explores how these priorities could boost economic growth and levelling-up.
RIA’s six key priorities to secure the future of rail comes after two challenging years for the rail industry, with the pandemic impacting both passenger and freight levels on the national network.
The Rail Industry’s Economy And Connectivity Must Be Boosted
Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the RIA said: “We congratulate Prime Minister Liz Truss on taking office. As she looks at industrial sectors which can help with the UK’s future success and prosperity, the railway industry is ready and willing to play its part in delivering her plans to generate economic growth, to level up and to help the Government deliver its net zero targets.
Rail is key to the UK’s future, not only connecting towns, cities and communities across the country but also in creating and supporting economic growth, hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds in tax revenue. For every £1 spent on rail, £2.50 is generated in the wider economy.
“With passenger numbers now regularly hitting well over 90% of pre-pandemic levels, and freight back to high volumes too, it is clear that rail not only has a bright and prosperous future but can play a key role in helping the wider national economic recovery, in what we know are uncertain times.
“From providing certainty of work to delivering major projects and getting the delivery of GBR right, we urge PM Liz Truss and her top team to make progress on the six ‘asks’ we are setting out today.”
By doing this she can ensure the railway industry gets the support it needs in the coming months, to help it deliver for the UK, its economy and connectivity, in the years ahead.
Completing Projects On Schedule Is Essential To A Positive Economic Impact
The first of the six key priorities for the incoming Prime Minister to support the rail supply sector is ensuring certainty of the work pipeline. A pipeline of work is the best way to keep costs down and deliver value for money for the tax and fare payer.
It is explained by the RIA that the rail industry needs a clear investment plan for Control Period 7 (2024-2029), which, allowing for inflation, is funded to at least CP6 levels.
Committing to delivering major rail projects is the second priority. RIA explained that the industry is ready to deliver transformational rail projects, but it needs commitment from the UK Government to ensure that the rail supply sector can gear up and make sure it has the capabilities to deliver.
For example, projects such as HS2, including the Eastern Leg and the Golborne Link (or an effective replacement) need to be delivered to full to get all the benefits of the scheme. RIA added that it is essential to see Northern Powerhouse Rail, Midlands Rail Hub, East West Rail and Crossrail 2 all delivered too.
Delivering these major rail projects can only be completed if work on them sees no hiatus. The third key priority is ensuring that the transition to Great British Railways (GBR) is completed to schedule and there is no work hiatus. Doing so will ensure projects are delivered promptly and see the positive economic impact of the rail industry maximised.
Using New Technologies And Methods Will Help Decarbonise Rail
Advancing technology is crucial to the rail industry and the RIA has stated that the government supporting digitalisation is essential. The industry needs the backing of the government to digitalise signalling as 65 per cent of current signalling needs to be replaced in the next 15 years. In addition to this, the government must exploit digital opportunities to improve customer service.
Seeing the rail industry decarbonised is vital when it comes to reaching our net zero targets. For the industry to phase out diesel-only trains by 2040 and decarbonise the railway network by 2050, it needs a commitment from the UK Government to accelerate plans on rail electrification, as well as support for hydrogen and battery trains on less intensively used parts of the network.
Investing in R&D and innovation rollout is the last key priority that RIA is urging Liz Truss to adopt. R&D and innovation funding and support for its rollout are essential to developing cleaner and more efficient ways of operating the railway. RIA has explained that there needs to be a focus on the deployment of innovation to realise benefits.