Train companies team up for £85bn plan to boost Britain's railway post-Brexit

 
Rebecca Smith
Train firms said over £50bn of investment will help deliver 5,700 new carriages on track by 2021
Train firms said over £50bn of investment will help deliver 5,700 new carriages on track by 2021 (Source: Getty)

Rail companies, their suppliers, and Network Rail, have today set out plans to work more closely together, in order to drive £85bn of additional economic benefits to the UK economy.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train firms and Network Rail, said the plan "will deliver the railway that the economy, customers and communities need as Britain prepares to leave the European Union".

Around £50bn of investment into rail, of which at least £11.6bn is from the private sector, over a decade will deliver almost £85bn to the economy, according to research by economics consultancy Oxera.

Some 5,700 of new carriages will be on track by 2021, adding another 6,400 services a week.

Read more: Network Rail gets £48bn in funding as major rail upgrades get a shake-up

The plan outlines four commitments from rail firms, including getting a greater grip on costs. Rail firms said they will strengthen the railway's contribution to the economy and keep running costs "in the black", freeing up taxpayers' money.

The group said Britain's public and private "partnership railway" will be improved with the creation of joint local boards with customer representation, as well as backing an independent rail ombudsman to handle complaints.

There are also plans to create 20,000 new apprenticeships in rail and its supply chain by 2020.

Plummer said:

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.

Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said that passengers across the country will see "a transformation in the services they receive" over the next 18 months.

He added: "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."

Business groups welcomed the plans, with Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, saying that firms "absolutely agree that the public and private sectors need to be working together to deliver better, more reliable rail services now and into the future".

Meanwhile, Mike Cherry, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, 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."

Unions however, were unimpressed with the plans, and reiterated calls for bringing Britain's railways back into public ownership.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers' union Aslef, called it "another typically tendentious piece of twaddle from the Rail Delivery Group, an organisation set up not to deliver rail for passengers, staff and businesses in Britain, but to protect the interests of a select club of privatised train operating companies who have their snouts deep in the public trough".

Meanwhile, the general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, Mick Cash, said:

This is just the same old fantasy railway and jam tomorrow, driven by the financial interests of the overseas private companies that have been granted a licence to plunder Britain's railways for other two decades.

The only national plan that would enable us to build for the future would be to kick out the private racketeers who are robbing us blind and bring the entire rail network under publi‎c ownership and public control.

Read more: November rail misery on the cards as RMT announces new wave of rail strikes

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