Key electoral issues in 2020, besides Brexit were the NHS, climate change, social care, education and the economy. These issues are also recognised by the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales as being of key importance. Provision of a growing and effective rail transportation system rose up the agenda and investment in transport infrastructure is now acknowledged as a highly effective way of addressing these key issues.
Railfuture, via its branches located throughout Britain, has kept in touch with important transport issues both nationally and locally. Our manifesto is therefore offered as a piece of research into what people are saying about railways and the part railways can play, beneath the headlines.
10 key policy areas
Rail issues hone down to 10 key topics. The government and rail industry must address all these topics to achieve the overarching goal of a railway which is responsive to its customers, so that rail can attract travellers out of their cars and planes to address the climate emergency whilst enabling sustainable growth:
- A coherent revitalised national railway system
- A railway as an agent for City and Regional economic growth
- An intermodal railway working with other transport providers to provide a national transport system
- A freight logistics railway serving a developing and growing UK industrial and retail supply chain.
- A resilient railway – not constantly in the headlines for service failures
- A professional, cost efficient railway, seen as value for money by customers and stakeholders
- A sustainable railway, relevant to addressing the environmental agenda
- A growing railway with investment in infrastructure capacity and skills
- A fair railway
- An accountable railway. Accountable for its actions. Accountable to the electorate. A railway responsive to its customers.
1. A revitalised national railway system providing properly co-ordinated services between and within regions
- Properly co-ordinated Inter City and Regional services into an integrated transport network for the UK with the capacity to meet passenger requirements including provision of a comfortable seat. Current levels of gross overcrowding are not acceptable nor is increasingly restrictive pricing designed to price people out of peak travel. A doubling of the capacity of the rail network is required, noting that passenger numbers have doubled over the last 20 years.
- A revitalised local railway with a planned cascade of trains across the system as new trains are provided, avoiding recent fiascos and botched solutions such as is currently happening in Northern England.
- The direct replacement for the 1980’s 4 wheel Pacer diesel trains should be augmented to provide for passenger growth, not simply like for like replacement. The cascade should be properly managed with embedded flexibility to allow for delays from suppliers in commissioning new vehicles.
- Station facilities are far from ideal at many stations and often there is no or little cover from the elements or even help points. Some upgrades have even reduced the cover for passengers – the London Overground experience of providing station upgrades has shown the benefits to passengers and in curbing anti–social behaviour. In this case the result has been enormous passenger growth particularly at off peak times, weekends and in the evening
- An integrated investment plan is required to provide accessibility to the network for those people with reduced mobility or special needs with whole- route availability such as applied to the Docklands Light Railway and soon to be to Crossrail in London. A larger “Accessibility for All” budget is required, increased by £200m, so that stations can match the fact that all trains are likely to be accessible by sometime in 2020 (originally legislated for January 1st 2020).
- Greater access to the network and greater geographic coverage with line re openings which meet sustainable, including financially sustainable, objectives. Railfuture has developed criteria and guidelines for supporting re-openings or provision of new rail links.
- Better real time, GPS based information to passengers relevant to the journeys they are making.
Rail should be an essential component of an integrated system for cities and large towns throughout Britain, as in London using all modes with integrated ticketing and journey planning and mapping. More city and Sub National Transport Body input into the planning of rail and investing in rail projects is essential including better co-ordination with bus services achieved through bus regulation in major cities. An improvement is required into industry processes to facilitate efficient and cost effective external commercial and local authority sponsorship of railway projects.
A city rail policy should include co-ordinated strategies covering;
- Rail – encouraging the development of electric public transport in urban areas
- Light rail/tramway systems
- Better co-ordination with bus services generally and regulation of bus services in major cities
- Park and ride
- City parking policy and pricing
- Cycle parking at stations.
- UK airports
- UK sea and ferry ports for passenger walk-on services properly marketed with through fares to the European continent, Ireland and the Scottish islands
- Developing Channel Tunnel passenger services with through and co-ordinated services from the UK Regions and improved ticketing for international journeys. Security procedures discriminating against the use of rail should be regularly reviewed
- Visitors to the UK for business or leisure bring in important revenue and should be encouraged to use public transport, with for example signage in multiple languages and non-Latin scripts in stations used by overseas visitors.
- Provision of new W12 gauge rail freight routes such as North to South capacity upgrades (on account of HS2) the Oxford to Cambridge spine and better access to Trafford Park, Manchester, and the provision of more freight loops on existing lines so that freight on rail may grow without increased intrusion to the operation of passenger services
- Better rail freight links to ports including the development of improved passenger and freight cross country links to UK Ports, so for example removing the conflict between passenger and freight trains near Ely, between Ipswich and Felixstowe.
- Better development of rail freight through the Channel Tunnel using environmentally sustainable electric traction with “last mile” capability to gain access to freight terminals. Better European freight gauge access via HS1 north of Barking to other regions of the UK
- Better use of rail for “express” or parcels operations currently huge users of road transport, through rail connected hubs such as Willesden. Innovation such as the use of London main line stations at night for retail distribution should be encouraged and facilitated by start-up grants.
- Planning rules to support the development of additional strategic road to rail connected intermodal freight terminals, with investment grants as used to be provided to promote extending rail connected freight terminals.
- A reliable railway that can deal with perturbations, including the effects of climate change and severe weather, achieved by the provision of sufficient infrastructure with modern signalling. The management of disruption remains a top passenger concern. Passengers should be involved in reviewing disruption contingency plans.
- The provision of diversionary routes with trained crews to allow for engineering work without the need to resort to buses when a railway is closed for maintenance
- Connection policy: A sustainable approach to the management of connections particularly between different train operators and publication of arrangements made in case of missed connections
As the rail system grows the cost per passenger or freight tonne mile should decrease through the provision of new:
- Train control and signalling systems
- Replacement of all level crossings by bridges or diversions
- Effective crewing and station staffing levels focused on the needs of the passenger, with rostering agreements to enable a seven-day railway.
- Rail is the most sustainable form of transport, investment in new trains and electrification would make rail even more sustainable, contributing to emissions targets and the environment
- A holistic approach to railway economics is essential so that rail is costed against the wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits rail delivers
- The UK Government should continue, post Brexit, to play a key role in dialogue. Standards and decision making with other EU governments, especially in fulfilling the aims of the 2011 Transport White Paper, to increase the use of rail and other environmentally friendly transport.
Investment to accommodate growth is essential, achieved through:
- Effective project delivery without the need for frequent engineering overruns resulting in huge passenger disruption. Similarly maintenance of the railway needs effective possession management with operational involvement and the provision of contingency plans if overruns were to occur. Overruns must not be the norm, and when they do occur there should be available contingency plans.
- New High Speed lines provided on the basis of capacity rather than speed to single points, properly integrated into regional and city transport systems. Also a renamed HS2 should be linked in London to HS1 in order to facilitate direct links to South East England and the continent
- A continuous strategic programme of network electrification properly and cost effectively delivered as a rolling programme overseen by a strategic delivery overview organisation
- A continuous strategic programme of network enhancement to increase capacity by facilitating longer trains and more frequent services
- Delivery of new trains in keeping with the pace of infrastructure investment and increased demand.
The railway must attract passengers out of their cars to achieve the modal shift needed to address climate change. To do this, it must regain public trust:
- Clearly explained, value for money fares and tickets which offer a choice of flexibility in time and routes to allow passengers to make an informed decision
- A commitment that the passenger will always get the best value fare for the journey that they wish to make, obviating the practice of 'split ticketing'
- Smart and multi-modal ticketing which benefits the passenger, eg by offering better value to frequent travellers
- Value walk-up fares to allow rail to gain the flexibility of car travel, promoting through journeys across the system by all operators
- Limiting both regulated and unregulated fares rises to reflect the Consumer Price Index (CPI) growth rather than keeping up with RPI, incentivising the rail industry to make efficiency gains
- Excluding limited headline advance fares which have little or no published availability
- Ticket machines which help passengers find the cheapest fare for their needs
- Online fares should be consistent with fares charged at ticket offices and by ticket machines
- Effective regulation
- Improved stakeholder interfaces with the railway stakeholders and customers
- Better visibility with understandable performance indicators
- Promoting national, regional and local economies through devolution of control of some city rail services to Sub National Transport Bodies.
- A railway that meets the needs of its customers who have said that their top priorities are:
- Price of train tickets offering better value for money
- A comfortable seat available for them on their train
- Trains sufficiently frequent at times of passengers wishing to travel
- More trains to run on time
- Train companies to keep passengers informed about delays
- Less frequent disruptions
- Fewer trains cancelled
- Accurate and timely information available at stations
- Faster journey times
- Free wi-fi on the train