GTMC welcomes positive developments on the rail network. Let’s continue to lobby for business travellers’ needs, says CEO Adrian Parkes
For a long time now, the GTMC has maintained that our regional transport network is a major priority for the UK business traveller. After all, improving access to major cities outside of the south-east will play a key role in rebalancing our economy.
Last autumn’s announcement of a £1.7 billion Transforming Cities Fund to advance transport links and promote local growth within city regions was a positive step forward, as was the Transport for the North’s 30-year strategic transport plan published at the start of the year.
And, with our Business Rail Travel research highlighting how nearly half of those surveyed (47 per cent) felt High Speed 2 (HS2) should be the government’s top rail priority, the chancellor’s announcement last autumn regarding increased investment in this infrastructure project was more positive news for what we hope will be a revolution in our transport network.
All of these developments in our country’s rail strategy are welcome progress and lead us to an important junction.
However, even with this level of spending, there is still some way to go to address the disparity of funding and close the regional economic gap. At our recent GTMC industry lunch, John Stevenson MP spoke about the need for increased investment regarding the North, a concern also shared in the findings of the recent IPPR ‘Future Transport Investment in the North’ report.
After decades of government lobbying, we also recognise that not all improvements to transport infrastructure benefiting our industry need cost billions. There is enormous potential for the transport industry to make rail a more effective and efficient working environment simply by providing sufficient space, power and broadband connectivity.
In particular, new stations and trains must do more to prioritise the factors that are key to boosting every business traveller’s ability to work on the move and that will, in turn, encourage more people to switch from road to train.
It’s great to reduce journey times for long-distance travellers and introduce greater competition on the UK rail network, but it’s equally important we minimise non-working time via further investment in 5G mobile networks.
Given the many changes unveiled over the past 12 months, there’s every reason to feel positive about the future of rail transport. We must keep up the momentum to ensure these promises translate into real improvements for business travellers across the UK.
Adrian Parkes is CEO of the GTMC, which represents travel management companies (gtmc.org)