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Rail Partners launches Manifesto for Rail – a five point plan to achieve ‘best of both worlds’ rail reform

15 February 2024
  • Rail Partners has launched its ‘Manifesto for Rail’ setting out a five point plan for politicians to create a thriving railway that works for customers and taxpayers
  • Publication comes ahead of the 2024 George Bradshaw Address ‘election special’ – where both main parties will set out their party’s vision for the railway ahead of the general election
  • The Manifesto calls for a ‘best of both worlds’ approach to rail reform – bringing together private sector expertise and the need for a single public point of accountability – to maximise the economic, social and environmental benefits of rail.

Rail Partners has launched its ‘Manifesto for Rail’, a five point plan for politicians to create a thriving railway for Britain. The document sets out a ‘best of both worlds’ approach to rail reform – giving private train operating companies the ability to respond to passenger and freight customer needs, as well as ensuring a single point of public accountability for the railway’s performance. 

The launch comes ahead of the 2024 George Bradshaw Address, which, in an election year special format, will see both main parties set out their respective plans for the railway.  

Recognising that the railway is not currently performing as it should be, the Manifesto encourages politicians to take decisions that will attract passengers back to rail, restoring hundreds of millions of pounds in lost revenue after covid. Doing so will allow the railway to fulfill its functions as an enabler of economic growth, with significant social benefits to communities and the environment. 

The five point plan is underpinned by research in Rail Partners’ Track to Growth report, which shows how competition between train companies, both here and in Europe contributes to growing passenger numbers, improved services and lower cost to the taxpayer. The evidence shows that allowing operators to use their commercial expertise to respond to the needs of customers is the best way to grow the railway and give the best value for taxpayers. 

The five elements of the plan outlined in the manifesto are: 

Focus the railway on the customer to balance the books. Give operators the freedom to use their commercial expertise, and respond to the customer, through transforming the contractual model post-Covid. A new model should take commercial decisions out of Whitehall and put them back with rail operators to help grow the railway – meaning more passengers, more services, increased revenue and lower taxpayer support. 

Let operators compete to connect communities.Allow operators to compete to attract customers on more long distance routes. This includes open access operations which run on gaps in the existing timetable at no direct cost to the taxpayer and often on underserved routes; encouraging intercity competition with road and air that helps lower fares and encourage innovation. 

Overhaul fares to offer customers the best value for their journey. Make it easy for passengers to find the right fare by creating a system that is easy to understand and is fit for purpose in a digital age. A modern approach to ticketing is needed with new ways to pay including expanding the availability of digital tickets to cover more journey types and investing in more tap-in-tap-out systems in urban areas across the railway. 

Prioritise getting freight off roads and onto rail. Harness rail freight for less congested roads and cleaner air by making rail freight the most attractive option for moving goods. Invest in infrastructure and create financial incentives for freight customers to choose the most environmentally friendly mode of freight transport – rail.  

Create a new body to oversee the railways. Legislate to create a new body that is accountable to the public – letting railway leaders get on with the job of running the railway and working towards the best outcome for customers. A new body would provide a single point of accountability to make sure passengers and freight customers are at the forefront of decisions. 

Andy Bagnall, Chief Executive of Rail Partners, said:

“Our Manifesto for Rail is a five point plan, backed by train companies, to get the railways again delivering their full potential for Britain. It gives whoever forms the next government a clear set of priorities to deliver reform and put the railways back on track to growth. The public is not that interested in how our railways are structured or organised, they just want to have trains that run on time and fares that offer them the best value for their journey. 

“There doesn’t have to be a binary choice between a monopoly railway in public hands, and one that delivers competition and innovation by harnessing the commercial expertise of private sector operators. We need the ‘best of both worlds’, which means focusing the system outwards on passengers and freight customers by empowering operators to meet their needs, and creating a single accountable body so the public knows who is in charge."

Download the Manifesto for Rail here.

Notes to editors

The George Bradshaw Address

The 2024 ‘George Bradshaw Address: Election special’ will take place on Tuesday 20 February at One Great George Street. The event will feature addresses from Huw Merriman MP, Minister of State for Rail and HS2, and Stephen Morgan MP, Shadow Minister of State for Rail, followed by questions. 

The George Bradshaw Address has been a mainstay of the rail industry calendar since the inaugural address from the then Network Rail Chair, Rick Haythornwaite in 2011. It brings together senior industry leaders to discuss the future of the industry and the challenges it faces and how, together, the industry can sustain and grow the rail network. 

The Address is named after George Bradshaw (1800-1853) who was a cartographer and printer, responsible for ‘Bradshaw’s Railway Guides’ which, from their publication in 1839, made the railways accessible to more people and revolutionised train travel. 

For more information on the event contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About Rail Partners

Rail Partners exists to make the railway better by harnessing the expertise and creativity of private sector operators for the benefit of those who use the railway, passengers and freight customers, and those who pay for it, including taxpayers.  

Media contact 

Ellie Fricker 

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Tel: 07458 051986 

Manifesto for Rail
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