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Hendy: Rail industry must learn to relate to the world outside of it

The railway must be adaptable, relatable and must improve its planning processes in order to grow wider economic growth in the future, a report by the Independent Transport Commission (ITC) backed by Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy has stated.

The report, ‘Classic Rail and Connected Cities: Capturing the Benefits from Rail System Development’, looked at the long-term effects of major infrastructure development in rail to create a guide for rail leaders to use to generate greater economic growth across the UK.

Essentially, the ITC’s findings urged industry leaders to improve their planning processes to create a more long-term, collaborative approach to ensure that decisions are taken with a 30- or 50-year life, rather than just based on five-year funding periods.

It found that being an industry which is flexible and responsive to change was central to achieving these ambitions, and pushed for the local regions to be the ‘catalyst’ for growth, saying: “A new rail station or service can successfully enable the growth or renewal of a place, but this requires an approach that considers the wider area that the rail station or service will serve.”

The report also emphasised that stations were more than a source of income, but should also look to support wider social and economic renewal objectives.

In his foreword to the report, Sir Peter, who wrote about devolution for the latest issue of RTM, pressed the importance of a long-term strategy to boosting economic growth through the railway.

“The rail’s pivotal role in our economy is measured in the last 20 years by a doubling of demand, with another doubling forecast in the next 25,” he wrote.

“And the industry has to be up for that challenge – as set out here, by embracing technology, the modern digital world that can transform track capacity with the Digital Railway, payment methods and information, and also by placemaking in and around its stations.

“To do that it has to look outwards, and this report sets out how it should do that. It needs to be coherent within itself, as the industry spends a lot of effort making itself work through contracts and agreements and with government, less in relating to the world outside it.

“It thus needs to relate to other stakeholders who have land ownership, funding, planning powers and responsibilities and even more importantly identify those who would benefit from railway enhancements to make sure they contribute as much as they can to schemes that create wealth, and growth for them.”

The Network Rail chairman also argued that a key part of the industry relating to the world outside of it would come from further devolution to routes in order to relate “far more closely” to stakeholders at a local or regional level.

“This report is very timely as we move towards railway CP6, and the determination by government and the ORR of how much resource should be put into which schemes for railway enhancement from 2019 to 2024,” Sir Peter concluded.

“It should encourage everyone concerned to look for the wider economic benefits of proposed schemes, and seek out funding contributions to them.”

In addition, Dr Matthew Niblett, ITC director, commented: “We need to take a longer-term perspective to ensure the UK maximises the social and economic renewal potential of rail infrastructure investment.

“During a period of major population growth and political devolution, Britain needs to make sure that rail-led development is shaped by the needs of local communities and businesses, with good integration with other transport modes to maximise the durability, social and economic potential of the asset.”

Niblett also stated that meaningful, early engagement of multiple organisations and local groups – not just on design issues, but through the build and delivery – was key to the success of the railway of tomorrow.

“We regard rail system development as too important to just be left to the rail industry alone,” he concluded.

Top Image: Stefan Rousseau PA

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Gary Bailey   11/04/2017 at 12:37

Hendy: 'Rail industry must learn to relate to the world outside of it' I think he forgot to add 'And the world outside needs to relate to the railway industry'

Jerry Alderson   11/04/2017 at 19:50

The two fundamental flaws in the British railway system, as I see it, are: Firstly it doesn't focus on passengers. It sees them as a captive market rather than one it has to work to retain and grow. Secondly it doesn't seem to appreciate that the railway serves the country and its economy. It should be looking at opportunities to create demand for rail and serve any demand that will occur naturally. The Victorian railway existed to make profits and because it was capable of making profits large enough to pay back investment the railway grew large. Today, sadly, there seems to be no way to get a return on investment so the only sizeable investor is the state and therefore the railway never takes the initiative. I don't know whether any other country's railway manages to get a return but BR did at least take the initiative.

Clive S   12/04/2017 at 14:37

Gary - why on earth? It's up to the rail industry to ensure it is relevant and listen to its stakeholders, primarily its customers and potential customers. To think the world need to relate to the industry smacks of complacency

Lutz   12/04/2017 at 16:58

I think one of the failings of the report is that it assumes that the growth projections are inviolate; i.e. that they are linear and that they are set in stone. I am also surprised that the report looks to greater flexibility and planning for the long-term but makes no mention of more agility around delivery (including shorter delivery times scales) and the requisite performance around planning.

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