Press release 26th October 2021

The Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021: delivering for UK Rail services – a Railfuture perspective

27 October: We have marked the Chancellor's Home work - aka the budget and spending review announcments.  Read our conclusions here; we are overall “Disappointed”: 1 * Very Disappointed, 7 * Disappointed , 1 * Mainly disappointed (ie elements of ‘Good’ and ‘Small start’), 1 * Good start and 1 *To be Determined.

As we await tomorrow’s Autumn Budget and Spending Review, Railfuture has voiced its fears for the future of the railway.  Chris Page, chair of Railfuture said “The Government mustn’t ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ – railways are still recovering from the pandemic, but rash  cost cuts now will cost the taxpayer money through reduced fare revenue”.  Neil Middleton, a fellow Railfuture director said: “Everyone has a choice on how to travel – reduced train frequencies and expensive fares just encourage us all to use other options – any saving in costs is so easily outweighed by lost revenue.  It would be great if the Government announced they were dropping their current approach to the annual inflationary fare rise – The use of the outdated RPI statistic really isn’t fair – a switch to CPI (without a supplement) – or even better no increase would send a message that the Government is serious about encouraging low carbon travel”.  Chris added “we are all better off if 5 passengers pay £10 each, rather than just 4 paying £10.50each”.

“So, what are we looking for in the Autumn Statement?  We believe the railway can best meet the country’s needs if there is a focus on two key aspects:"

“Firstly, ensuring that there is a much stronger focus on customer needs."

“And secondly, ensuring that the railway is fully supported by the government so that it can meet its shorter and longer term ambitions, such as the low carbon economy, levelling up etc.”

Notes to editors:

Railfuture will be marking the Budget and Spending Review – and the COP26 Announcements against our wish list (see the appendix).  We’ll be posting this on social media tomorrow (and during COP26) – on twitter.com/railfuture and sometimes with longer commentaries at www.facebook.com/Railfuture and on LinkedIn

Railfuture is the UK's leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for both passengers and freight.

Railfuture's website can be found at: www.railfuture.org.uk

Follow Railfuture on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Railfuture

For further in formation and comment please contact:

Neil Middleton, Railfuture director
Tel: 01582 768128 Mobile: 07887 628367
neil.middleton at railfuture.org.uk

Bruce Williamson, media spokesman
Tel: 0117 927 2954 Mobile: 07759 557389
media at railfuture.org.uk

Appendix: The Railfuture Wish list for the Autumn Budget and Spending Review and COP26

We are particularly looking for evidence in these 8 areas that the Government is:

1. Committed to giving the railway time to think – and to understand future demand – so no panic measures.  Passenger demand is still evolving (e.g. how often will we be in the office), but there is good evidence of plenty of leisure demand.   No rash decisions that undermine the long term future of the railway. 
2. Committed to a focus on the net cost to the taxpayer – not just costs in isolation.  Cost savings that reduce passenger demand end up costing the taxpayer as the fare revenue lost is greater than the saving.  Conversely there should be a willingness to spend to increase revenue. So frequency, capacity and good timetables etc all create a service that appeals to intending passengers – who then go on to use the railway and pay fares that reduce the taxpayer burden.
3. Committing to ensuring rail use is not financially disadvantaged versus other modes e.g. a fares freeze – or at least no bigger than CPI.
4. Making some key immediate investment announcements:
  • That as soon as possible actual battery, and hydrogen trains to be in service to assess their suitability for the 15% of lines where electrification is not practical.·
  • Funding for Round 4 of the New Stations fund.
  • A decision made on round 3 of Restoring Your Railway.
  • Money for better bus connectivity at stations.
  • Retaining and expanding funding for individual improvements such as step-free station access (100 more stations by 2024).
5. Announces funding for rolling programme of electrification as priority for major investment, target 2040 to complete at least 85% of current non electrified lines. To work in parallel with strategy on decarbonisation. A good first start would be a commitment to electrify the Midland Mainline from Market Harborough northward to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield and Leeds.
6. Releases an Integrated Rail Plan for the Midlands and North, including delivery of HS2E (by adopting Railfuture’s smart solution), Northern Powerhouse rail (including Trans Pennine upgrades) that will create a railway the North can be proud of.
7. Invests in rail capacity and operation for increasing rail freight capacity and performance; most notably:
  • On day to day operation, reform to lead to improved certainty for the cost of electric current for traction (EC4T).
  • Investment to address specific pinch points such as those between Felixstowe and Midlands and the North; also gauge clearance works.
8. Commits to maintaining funding stability – multi-year funding, also to allow long-term planning (which leads to efficiency and better value):
  • Certainty in both medium and long term capital and revenue funding, as is done in Europe.  Certainty needs to be a 3 and more year deal (the last Treasury statement was only for 1 year).
  • Approving positive investment projects and programmes so they secure funding (network capacity).
  • Release of a new edition of the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP) that contains the capacity and green improvements needed to meet the UK’s needs for low carbon transport; and linked to this commitment to fund development & delivery of RNEP.
Note: In many of these areas we have identical aspirations for improvements and investments in Scotland & Wales; often these are decisions for the devolved Administrations.

See also: Railfuture’s smart solution for HS2 East:https://railfuture.org.uk/article1883-HS2E-a-better-alternative