Skip to main content

Rail is at a fork in the tracks

Rail is at a fork in the tracks

Rail Partners - Rail is at a fork in the tracks
22 July 2022
Andy Bagnall, chief executive

Thirty years ago, consistently declining passenger numbers under British Rail left the Government with a choice – continue to manage decline, or harness the private sector to reinvigorate the railway. In 2022, as we emerge from the pandemic, a similar choice faces policy makers – how best to avoid decline and enable recovery. And the private sector again has a critical role to play.

While the rail freight sector has largely recovered or in some places is exceeding pre-pandemic levels, the passenger sector is facing a cumulative shortfall of around £20 billion in fares revenue by 2025, with the gap currently being plugged by taxpayers. This is unsustainable, the rail industry cannot take more than its fair share of public funds.

The scale of change needed to address this immediate issue will inevitably cause turbulence, as we are seeing play out in the current industrial action. But change we must. And alongside addressing the immediate cost challenges, government is also undertaking the biggest shift in how the railway is organised since privatisation in the mid-1990s, through the implementation of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail.

Taking the right route

Rail Partners advocates for independent passenger owning groups, and for freight operators, bringing their voice to decision makers and wider stakeholders to help create the conditions which allow them to focus on delivering the best possible services for customers.

As big as the challenges the sector faces are, I am excited to be supporting the members of Rail Partners and the wider industry to bring about the change necessary to set the railway up for success for the next generation.

We must move on from the old arguments around ownership and instead bring the best of both sectors together in a reinvigorated partnership.

How do we get there?

Rail Partners and its members want to support the co-creation of successful reform. We have today, published ‘Working Together for a Better Railway’, which sets out 5 principles for successful reform. If we deliver the reforms we are calling for, we believe we can set the railway on the track to a sustainable future, not for itself but for the wider economic and environmental outcomes that a healthy railway supports.

More blogs

Revitalising Rail: We need a partnership which gets the best out of the public and private sectors
Government must seize the moment by committing to an ambitious target to treble rail freight by 2050
Two years on from the Plan for Rail – time is running out to deliver it
The ‘wrong kind of snow’: the challenge of winter weather on our railways