Government urged not to squander North's chance for better rail network

The Government is being urged not to squander the North’s chance for a better railway as fears have been raised a Whitehall review of the rail network has missed out on the chance to maximise social, economic and environmental benefits.

The Governmentis being urged not to squander the Norths chance for a better railway.
The Governmentis being urged not to squander the Norths chance for a better railway.

Charity Campaign for Better Transport and industry consultants Teneo have today released research which they believe shows the railway isn’t serving all parts of society or reducing its environmental impacts as effectively as it must. Both state the Government’s Williams Rail Review is “not adequately addressing these issues”.

The research has “identified a number of barriers” with the direction of the Rail Review.

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These include rail travel being predominately used by higher income groups; fares becoming more unaffordable since 2008 and rising faster than disposable incomes; and the fact rail is better for the environment that cars, taxis and aviation.

The research has also found major variations in accessibility, service quality, usage and social benefit between regions and operators.

The charity has urged the Government’s Rail Review to ensure that its evidence base and objectives are clearer before progressing onto the industry proposals for new structures.

Chief executive Darren Shirley said: “The Government’s Rail Review must look at not just how to run the railways, but what kind of railway we want for the future so any reforms are designed to ensure benefits reach all parts of society. Alongside this, there must be a fundamental overhaul of the fares and ticketing system, including how fare rises are set.”

Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison said the findings highlight the South East is “better served” in terms of rail transport, but called for people to support future developments for the North, including the Northern Powerhouse Rail project to integrate linked city economies.

The Department for Transport said it is “driving forward with the most significant change in the rail sector” in 25 years and stated “the root and branch Williams Review is focused on putting passengers at the heart of our railway”.

A DfT spokeswoman said: “The Review’s call for evidence has received nearly 300 submissions to date, with more expected before it closes at the end of May. These will be crucial to its recommendations for reform.

“The Government will publish a White Paper later this year following this, with the implementation of reforms planned to start from 2020.”

Letter to the Chancellor

Northern Parliamentarians are calling on the Chancellor to commit to transport investment in the North.

Over 80 Parliamentarians will today send a letter to the Chancellor to start the debate about what is needed in terms of commitment to the full Transport for the North Strategic Plan and devolved transport budgets to city and metro regions, as recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission.

The letter has been prepared at the request of the co-chairs of the Northern Powerhouse All-Party Parliamentary Group.