The Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) was one of the most significant releases for the rail sector, particularly in the North and Midlands, last year. It has stencilled out the strategy of work to take place across the region in the coming years to improve the rail network.
Despite the rail industry often thinking about projects and investment regionally, much of the UK rail network does not fit neatly within singular regional boundaries, and for many of the major projects touched on in the IRP, it will require significant cross-border collaboration between regions.
To understand this more, and to help encourage it further, TCR Midlands 2022 saw a specific panel debate on the IRP and how the sub-national transport bodies for these regions, in the North and Midlands, are planning to come together.
Joining host Helen Fospero on stage were:
- Maria Machancoses, Chief Executive, Midlands Connect
- Martin Tugwell, Chief Executive, Transport for the North
- Graham Botham, Strategy & Planning Director, Network Rail
First and foremost, Martin took the time to reassure the gathered room of rail sector industry leaders and decision makers in Birmingham that IRP was a positive opportunity.
He explained: “There are some really good foundations from which to build.”
While the IRP was not universally well-received across the industry, it still does represent £96bn of investment being outlined for upgrading the rail network; and with that comes a lot of opportunities for the rail supply chain to get involved, share and deliver innovations, and strike deals which ultimately will help improve the experiences of passengers and bolster local economies.
Martin added: “We shouldn’t forget that if [an innovation] is valuable for the public sector, then it’s probably valuable for the private sector too.”
And this was mirrored by Graham Botham too, adding: “Railways can and should play an important role in creating economic growth.”