Britain runs on rail

Source: RTM Oct/Nov 16

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), writes about a new national campaign designed to engage and inform the wider public about ongoing improvements being carried out across the railways.

You might have spotted recent adverts in newspapers and on poster sites for ‘Britain Runs on Rail’. This is a new campaign launched by the RDG – the first industry-wide campaign of its kind since the 1980s. 

As an industry, we know we need to do more to make the public aware of how taxpayer and passenger money is being spent on the railway. With rail companies delivering over £50bn of improvements as part of the industry-wide Railway Upgrade Plan to build a bigger and better railway, the RDG is keen to get this message out there. The ultimate goal is to sustain support from the public and private sectors to ensure continued investment and long-term improvements. 

Britain Runs on Rail tells the story of today’s railway – a story of modernisation and renewal. It highlights rail’s increasingly crucial role and its social and economic impact. The campaign shines a spotlight on how the railway is a lynchpin of society, enabling housing, jobs and economic growth: the railway and its supply chain support over 200,000 jobs across the country, generate up to £4bn in tax revenue to the public purse, and boost the UK’s productivity by £10bn annually. 

Following massive growth in demand for the railway – both from passengers and freight – investment is needed to maintain and build the railway passengers want and the country needs: 

  • Every day, more than 4.5 million rail journeys are taken by people to work, study or visit friends and family
  • Over the last 20 years, rail has grown faster than demand for air or road travel
  • Passenger journeys are expected to double again over the next 25 years
  • Consumer rail freight grew 5% and construction traffic grew 10% during 2015
  • Government investment has combined with commercial drive to create the safest and fastest growing railway in Europe  

Creative ideas 

The adverts are designed to generate public interest by using metaphorical representations of the railway. They also evoke a sense of ‘Britishness’ to provide the link back to the railway’s role in wider national life. 

The images used are designed to pique interest in the railway, focusing on tangible improvements (such as upgrades to signalling) that are being delivered, as well as highlighting how the railway supports people in their everyday lives. 

We hope the campaign will prompt public debate about current issues facing the industry, including:

How to balance taxpayer and passenger funding of the railway

  • How to reform fares regulation so that train companies can make it easier for passengers to buy the cheapest fares
  • How to modernise the railway to deliver the service passengers expect in the digital age, including introducing new forms of ‘ticket’
  • Where to focus investment to increase rail capacity
  • And, how to improve the structures of the industry to enable train companies and Network Rail to excel 

The public are also invited to visit a website (see below) that sets out improvements to the railway in their area and explains the increasingly crucial role it plays in enabling jobs, housing and economic growth. 

Much interest has been generated by the redesigned ‘double arrow’ logo. The famous emblem, originally designed in 1965, has become an iconic part of Britain’s design landscape as the identifier for the National Rail network on road signs, stations buildings, ticket and railcards. While the logo will not change in these places, it has been refreshed for the campaign to reflect the modern rail industry where rail companies are working together ever more closely.  

It’s time we had an open and honest conversation with the public about the tough choices government, the industry and the country face if we are going to deliver the railway Britain needs and passengers want. We need people to think about the railway in a way they aren’t used to – to consider what it does for them and for the country. The industry needs to talk directly to people to tell its story and stop giving the stage over to others, whether governments, pressure groups or the media.



 (Image - © Hugh Llewelyn)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]



Lutz   15/11/2016 at 10:55

I think you fail at the point from were you mention "over £50bn of improvements"; that is clearly not the case, and you can only say that by adopting a skew on the facts. That is an instant turn-off, and a wasted effort on this campaign. That figure may be true if the time-scales you have in mind are over the coming decade or more, but I suspect that the travelling public's time-scales are only as far as the end of the current/next journey. The time-scales viewed by the general public are much shorter, and from that perspective there is a pittance being spent on the railways - on the existing routes not some vapour-ware story in the press. You can say that is not fair, but you (the Industry) need to engage at the perspective of ordinary travellers and that is at the individual journey level - station condition, crowding, value for money, getting a seat, on-time arrival - fail on any of those (and 'you' virtually always do) then clearly nothing is changing for the better, not enough money is being spent in the right places, and your campaign is just another failed glossy, self-deceiving fib on the part of the industry. Quite frankly, until you make the trains run on time, and provide a seat for each journey, your campaigns can go hang.

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