Following the announcement of Liz Truss as the new UK Prime Minister, The Railway Industry Association (RIA) has outlined six key priorities that must be addressed for the future of rail. These priorities have been compiled to address the areas of boosting economic growth, levelling up within the sector, new job creation and the facilitation of the UK’s journey towards net-zero.
The RIA’s call to action has come after two challenging years that saw the industry tackle the global Coronavirus pandemic, which saw a mass reduction in both passenger usage and freight levels across the UK rail network. As the sector has been quickly recouping in lost revenues as passenger numbers have increased up to 95% of pre-pandemic numbers, the continued government support and investment is essential to the ensuring the continued stabilisation and growth of the sector in the coming years.
RIA’s six key priorities for the incoming Prime Minister to support the rail supply sector are:
- Ensuring certainty of the work pipeline. To ensure costs are down and value for money is delivered, the industry must achieve a clear and cohesive investment plan for the upcoming Control Period 7 (CP7). Given the upcoming inflation levels soaring, the UK rail investment must see CP6 levels of funding as well as publication of the Rail Network Enhancement Pipeline, the last iteration of which was published well over 1,000 days ago, as at mid-July.
- Committing to deliver major rail projects. Transformational rail projects are ready for delivery across the sector, but they must acquire strong levels of commitment and funding to ensure the rail supply sector has the capabilities for delivery. Projects such as HS2 must see the inclusion of the Eastern Leg and the Golborne Link, or an effective replacement, must see full delivery to achieve the full benefits of the project. With Liz Truss addressing the need for Northern Powerhouse Rail, this is another project which would be essential for the new Prime Minister to address
- Ensuring the transition to Great British Railways (GBR) is completed to schedule and there is no work hiatus. As the GBR transition is being completed, there must be no hiatus in its progress as it is an essential component to see project delivery across the sector, whilst ensuring positive economic impact of the rail industry is maximised.
- Supporting digitalisation. As the great wave of digitalisation sweeps across the UK rail industry, it is vital that signalling must be fully digitalised and replaced within the next 15 years. With current statistics showing that up to 65% of signalling is still not digitalised, this must be completed to exploit digital opportunities to improve customer service.
- Decarbonise rail by accelerating electrification, hydrogen, and battery trains. As the UK strives to achieve carbon net-zero by 2050, the phase out of diesel-only trains by 2040 must be completed and needs complete Government commitment, accompanied by the implementation of rail electrification.
- Invest in R&D and innovation roll out. The funding for R&D and industry innovation is essential to the development of cleaner and more efficient operational standards across the railway. In particular, there needs to be a focus on the deployment of innovation in order to realise benefits.
Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (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.”
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