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‘Open and honest’ public conversation needed as part of awareness campaign

The rail industry needs to have an “open and honest conversation” with the public about the challenges facing the sector, the chair of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), Paul Plummer, said on Wednesday as he launched the Britain Runs on Rail campaign.

The campaign was launched by the RDG, which brings together Network Rail and TOCs, to raise awareness of the Rail Upgrade Plan.

“We all know it’s been a difficult few months for the railway and there are many challenges still ahead that we need to confront,” Plummer said.

“It's time we had an open and honest conversation with the wider public – passengers, freight users and taxpayers - about the tough choices government, the industry and the country faces if we are going to deliver the railway Britain needs and passengers want.

"But to have that debate, 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.

“That’s why I’m pleased that today we’re launching a campaign to communicate directly with our passengers and the country that Britain runs on rail."

“We know that we have to do better for our passengers, our freight customers and taxpayers to deliver the railway that the country needs."

He said the campaign should lead to a discussion of issues including how to balance taxpayer and passenger funding of the railway, fares regulation reforms that would make it easier for passengers to buy the cheapest fares, and introducing more digital services, including e-tickets.

In addition, passengers should be involved in the discussion over 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.

Britain Runs on Rail is intended to show passengers and taxpayers how their money is being spent on the £50bn Rail Upgrade Plan.

As part of the plan, £31.3bn will be spent on improvements to the rail infrastructure, including the electrification of the Great Western Main Line, the completion of the Thameslink Programme, and improvements to the railway in the north of England - allowing more trains to run and replacing the old Pacer trains.

Other spending commitments include £11.6bn on 5,500 new carriages, £14.8bn on Crossrail, and £7.7bn on groundwork for HS2.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “Good rail links bring the country closer together, driving economic growth and transforming communities.  That is why we are delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century, investing more money than ever before in our network.

“Passengers want safer, faster and more comfortable journeys which is why, by the end of 2019, we will have thousands of new carriages introduced on services across Britain and, longer-term, HS2 will become the new backbone of a national rail network that will help us build an economy that works for all.”

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: "The growth in passenger numbers is a huge success story for rail. High demand across the country shows just how popular trains are as a mode of transport. It is going to be ever more important not only for our prosperity but also for the environment that more people are able to use rail in future. An efficient, affordable rail network helps us reduce emissions from transport, kick start the economy, and better connect people and communities."

The government was recently criticised by rail unions after it emerged that passenger fares will rise by 1.9% next year.

For more information about the Britain Runs on Rail campaign, click here.

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here.


GW   16/09/2016 at 21:38

The best thing the RDG could do is say nothing. Unfortunately it has supported the unsupportable so silence would be the best move if trust is to be restored.

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