Rail industry launches 'landmark' partnership commitment

The Rail Delivery Group, including train operators and Network Rail, has announced a new partnership plan based on four commitments, which it says will secure £85bn of additional economic benefit

The Rail Delivery Group's (RDG) new long-term plan, In Partnership for Britain's Prosperity, makes four commitments for industry change to build on the progress of the past 20 years, the RDG says. The plan is supported by business and passenger groups and includes a new drive to show customers how the railway is changing in their area. It is based on research that shows how a 'partnership railway' can deliver nearly £85bn of economic benefit by better connecting people to jobs, housing and new business opportunities. This is on top of the £31bn of benefit that Britain's railways deliver already, the RDG says.

The four commitments:

1 - Strengthen the railway’s contribution to the economy, keeping running costs in the black, freeing up taxpayers’ money

2 - Increase customer satisfaction by improving the railway to remain the top-rated major railway in Europe

3 - Boost local communities through localised decision making and investment

4 - Create more jobs, increase diversity and provide our employees with rewarding careers

Speaking at the launch of In Partnership for Britain’s Prosperity, the chief executive of the RDG, Paul Plummer, said: “Today is a landmark coming together. This plan, delivered by a changing partnership railway, will secure the economic benefits from current investment by the public and private sectors, and enable further improvement and investment.

“That’s why today, we are making four commitments for change to safeguard our economic contribution while delivering the best deal for taxpayers, to improve services for customers, better connect local communities and secure more jobs in rail. This plan will deliver the railway that the economy, customers and communities need as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.”

The RDG has also pointed out some major improvements already under way, including investment in rolling stock by train operating companies that will bring around 5,700 new carriages and an extra 6,400 services per week by 2021.

Earlier in October, the rail industry learnt that up to £48bn will be invested in the railway in Control Period 6 between 2019 and 2024. About £35bn will come directly from government grant, with the rest expected to be sourced from track access charges and other sources such as land sales from Network Rail's property portfolio.

A new Independent Railway Ombudsman is due to be introduced by summer 2018 for ruling on unresolved complaints, aimed at improving services and consumer confidence. Customers in England and Wales are to be given representation on joint supervisory boards – partnerships between the rail industry and rail consumer groups. Internally, the rail industry stands to benefit from 100,000 job opportunities, £1bn in staff investement, 20,000 new apprenticeships in the supply chain and the doubling of higher level apprentice places every five years.

According to the RDG. rail companies will be launching local activity to demonstrate local changes under way for customers, businesses and communities over coming months.

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne, said: “Over the next 18 months passengers and communities across the country will see a transformation in the services that they receive. Thousands of new trains will be introduced as the culmination of years of heavy investment in improving our railway comes to fruition, stimulating the economy by delivering new job and housing opportunities.

“Network Rail's transformation is bringing track and train more closely together for the benefit of passengers. This RDG industry plan will accelerate change and deliver further investment and improvements for passengers, communities and businesses across Britain.”

The national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, Mike Cherry, said: “Well-maintained and integrated infrastructure is crucial for small businesses and the economy as a whole. Promised investment from the public and private sectors should help boost businesses, the economy and communities around the country, but it needs to be delivered without delay.

“Improvements in connectivity are vital for the productivity and growth of firms for whom rail is key for customers, visitors and freight. With Brexit on the horizon, the commitments in this plan should be good news for small businesses up and down the country that rely on rail.”