New UK manifesto for rail: put your rail ambitions on the agenda

The Railway Industry Association, the voice of the UK rail supply community, has published five manifestos ahead of the devolved national and regional elections taking place next month in parts of the UK. The documents ask the devolved governments, the main political parties, and local administrations to put their ambitions for rail on the agenda. They say they want answers to voters’ questions about sustainable economic development based on rail expansion.

With elections in much of the UK coming up in May, the Railway Industry Association has produced a series of tailored manifestos for each region. The documents highlight the key asks the rail industry would like to see in coming years, from political decision makers in Scotland, London and the South East, the English Midlands, the North of England, and Wales & Western. The North of England manifesto has been produced jointly with Northern Rail Industry Leaders (NRIL), a broadly representative body of stakeholders in the region.

Affirm commitment to rail

British political parties have all moved towards rail development as part of the decarbonisation agenda and the need for greening the economy. Darren Caplan, the chief executive of the Railway Industry Association said the upcoming Devolved National and Regional Elections offer the opportunity for candidates, across the political spectrum, and in all parts of the UK, to affirm their commitment to a strong, vibrant rail sector. He thinks that can lead the economic revival following Coronavirus. “Rail is green”, he said. “It’s a catalyst for economic growth and its geographically spread across the country, making it a prime candidate for continued investment, at such a critical time for the economy.”

Image: courtesy Network Rail
Freight potential is on the agenda in elections scheduled for May in Scotland and here, in Wales (Network Rail)

As a representative body of around 300 companies, the Railway Industry Association has a stake in the economic recovery of the country. “We help to grow a sustainable, high-performing, railway supply industry, and to export UK rail expertise and products”, says the association. The Assocaition has already engaged with government this year, seeking clarification of the Rail Network Enhancement Programme, which they say has stalled, and is proving detrimental to the industry and the UK economic recovery programme.

Five manifesto pledges

While regional specifics are outlined in each document, key messages are repeated. The RIA asks the various political decision makers to invest in major rail schemes post-Coronavirus and support rail’s role in supporting the economic recovery; increase visibility of rail schemes, including publishing several overdue reports; further continuous electrification; technological upgrading to signalling in particular; and a standing order to include rail in future trade deals and support the sector as a significant export in its own right.

Darren Caplan of the Railway Industry Association (RIA)

“The Railway Industry Association has published five manifestos setting out what rail businesses need from policy makers in order to best support the economy and jobs”, said Caplan. “Whether in Scotland, the North, Midlands, London and the South East or Wales & Western, the rail industry needs a consistent and visible profile of work, support to decarbonise and digitalise the network, commitments to major projects and backing to develop innovation and skills. We look forward to working with all parties, both before and after the elections, to ensure our railways continue to act as the economic backbone of the country.”

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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