A thriving UK Plc needs a modernised rail service – so the new government must commit to upping its game
Following June’s general election, we have – ostensibly – a new government. In fact, first indications suggest there’s not a lot “new” about it, but while the political landscape may have changed dramatically, the economic landscape is much the same as it was before. The UK’s transport infrastructure still needs urgent government attention.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-election pledge to renationalise the UK’s railways was never going to be a vote-winner with the business travel community. The privatisation of British Rail, completed 20 years ago, coupled with huge technological improvements, has resulted in significant benefits for British businesses and their travelling employees, and few of us would want to go back to the old days.
While older rail travellers may mourn the disappearance of the formal dining car, the privatised train operating companies (TOCs) have introduced new trains, new services, new ticketing and booking technologies and – by and large – made everyone’s rail travel easier, more pleasant, and more productive.
The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party were always going to be broadly pro-rail for environmental reasons, although the latter had qualms about High Speed 2: A proposed high-speed railway line linking London with the Midlands, the North of England and eventually the central belt of Scotland. It is being developed by High Speed Two Ltd, a comp... – would be welcome, but will take time. New thinking can bring quick wins, and at little or no cost.
The trainsets, tracks, signals and stations are already in place. The technology will doubtless be improved and expanded in the months and years to come. The demand from the crucial, revenue-generating corporate sector is already there.
We have a new government with a great deal on its plate, but making better use of our existing passenger rail system should be a priority. The economy needs it.