UK: The Railway Industry Association has set out six key priorities for the future of rail following confirmation on September 5 that Liz Truss is to succeed Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister.
RIA says that its manifesto would boost economic growth and levelling up, create jobs and facilitate the UK’s journey towards Net Zero. The six key priorities to support the rail supply sector are:
- Ensuring certainty of the work pipeline. A pipeline of work is the best way to keep costs down and deliver value for money for the tax and fare payer, RIA believes. The industry needs a clear investment plan for Control Period 7 (2024-29), which, allowing for inflation, is funded to at least CP6 levels, as well as publication of the Rail Network Enhancement Pipeline, the last iteration of which was released well over 1 000 days ago.
- Committing to deliver major projects. The industry needs commitment from the government to ensure the rail supply sector can gear up and ensure it has the capabilities to deliver. For example, projects such as High Speed 2, including the Eastern Leg and the Golborne Link, need to be delivered in full to get the full benefits of the scheme, and Northern Powerhouse Rail, Midlands Rail Hub, East West Rail and Crossrail 2 all need to be delivered too.
- Ensuring the transition to Great British Railways is completed to schedule and there is no work hiatus. It is essential the government ensures that there is no hiatus in current work as GBR is established. Doing so will ensure projects are delivered promptly and mean that the positive economic impact of the rail industry is maximised.
- Supporting digitalisation. The industry needs the backing of the government to digitalise signalling — RIA says that 65% of current signalling equipment needs to be replaced in the next 15 years — and also to exploit digital opportunities to improve customer service.
- Decarbonise rail by accelerating electrification, hydrogen and battery trains. For the industry to phase out diesel-only trains by 2040 and decarbonise the main line network by 2050, it needs a commitment from the government to accelerate plans on electrification, as well as support for hydrogen and battery trains on less intensively used routes.
- Invest in R&D and innovation roll-out. R&D and innovation funding and support for its deployment is essential to developing cleaner and more efficient ways of operating the railway.
‘We congratulate Prime Minister Liz Truss on taking office’, said RIA Chief Executive Darren Caplan. ‘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.
‘For every £1 spent on rail, £2·50 is generated in the wider economy’, he emphasised. ‘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.’