Railway line in Croatia, source: HŽ Infrastruktura

UK rail supply industry supports safe return to work

Source: HŽ Infrastruktura

UK’s Railway Industry Association has welcomed coronavirus-related assurances from UK government and the infrastructure agency Network Rail. Official advice states that where work can go ahead safely, it should do so, as the tentative relaxation of lockdown measures begins.

The response from the Railway Industry Association (RIA) comes as part of their submission to the government’s Transport Select Committee inquiry on the impact of coronavirus on the transport sector. The RIA is also encouraging Network Rail to identify opportunities to bring work forward, such as design, IT and telecoms. The body has also expressed recommendations on channelling funding into infrastructure to better support long-term growth. 

Communication more important than ever

The Railway Industry Association, which represents over three hundred corporations in the rail supply chain, says the government’s response to coronavirus and engagement with rail suppliers has generally been positive so far.

“In this difficult period, effective communication between the government, clients and the supply chain is more important than ever”, said an RIA statement. “Rail can support and ensure a safe return to work for workers throughout the UK, helping the economic recovery and ensuring we can build world class rail at home and abroad in the months and years to come”.

Manifesto for next thirty years

The Transport Select Committee, a cross-party parliamentary board which independently scrutinises the work of the Department of Transport, is currently seeking evidence from the industry at large, on matters relating to the impact of the coronavirus on the transport sector.

London parliament at sunset

The RIA submission follows up the association’s “Rail 2050” manifesto, published just before the 2019 general election, which set out a vision for the next thirty years of rail development. “The railway industry faces uncertain times ahead”, said the manifesto at the time, noting that freight was a major contributor to the 36 billion British pounds generated annually in economic gross value added by the industry (41 billion euros).

“The past few months have been incredibly challenging for many in rail”, said Darren Caplan, the RIA chief executive. “As our submission to the Transport Committee’s consultation shows, the twin priorities of the Railway Industry Association and our members has been to ensure the railway network can enable key workers and resources to be able to move around the country, whilst also ensuring the work suppliers do helps rail play its part in spearheading economic recovery”.

Remain true to investment levels

Longer term, the RIA supports continued investment in railway infrastructure overall. Concerns over the public purse, given the record levels of economic support currently committed, have already been expressed. Several commentators have called for the government to remain true to investment levels, on the grounds that economic recovery would be hampered by a fresh round of austerity.

Infrastructure investment critical to the future of the industry says Railway Industry Association (Network Rail image)

“We now welcome the opportunity to work with the Transport Select Committee, the Government, client bodies and other rail stakeholders”, said Caplan. The RIA chief executive added that continued engagement was necessary to accelerate work and ensure “the railway industry can build even better world-class rail at home and abroad, – with rail supply being a leading sector in helping the UK bounce back from the coronavirus lockdown – in the months ahead”.

The Transport Select Committee is continuing to receive submissions from interested parties throughout May and June.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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