Transport investment rising up the political agenda
Transport has risen up the agenda, particularly in London and the South East but also in a devolution context and indeed increasingly, nationally. Initially demonstrated by Crossrail, there is now an established link between transport infrastructure schemes such as HS2 and the economy both in terms of their construction and their operation. In that example, Railfuture has campaigned hard to ensure that HS2 is properly integrated into regional rail networks.
Rail is now at the centre of political debate, rather than on the periphery, at local, regional and national level. Railfuture is in a unique position to explain the key transport issues to parliamentary candidates, and to help candidates to understand the direct connections between transport provision and the economy, jobs and the environment.
The Railfuture remit is to campaign for a bigger, better railway in the UK. At national level we have sharpened our act in terms of responding in an informed way to national consultations and establishing direct dialogue with key industry and government stakeholders.
Much of our success comes from the work done by the Railfuture branches where members have increasingly established effective contact with train operating companies, local and regional government and stakeholders. This means that our campaigning can be focused on local issues that are relevant. Even national issues such as properly integrating HS2 and value for money rail fares have a local dimension. We campaign for rail, not in isolation but as part of an integrated transport system. We campaign not on nostalgia but, on rail line re-openings for example, on the basis of sustainability in terms of potentially sound business cases. We have recently been asked to join in the debate on fares, on commuter health, on light rail and airport strategy. Our position on many of these areas is shown on the Railfuture website.
The opportunity presented by the snap election
The election on 8th June is different. Railfuture is non-political so we can talk to all parties on rail issues. We are not compromised by allegiance to any one party and certainly not wishing to tell members how to vote. We do not take a position on nationalisation – it is leadership and management that matter in the rail industry, not ownership.
The difference in this election is that many candidates have been selected at short notice, so may not be particularly informed on transport issues but are receptive to dialogue, knocking on doors to hear members’ individual views. Some may not even be aware that transport is an issue. They want to know what issues concern us and are hoping that their approach on such issues gains our votes.
Our members will talk with and write to candidates as well to the local press, citing local as well as national issues in campaigning for a bigger better railway in Britain.
What issues are we campaigning on?
Our message to parliamentary candidates is that a continued high level of investment in rail is essential to promote economic growth. Britain’s railways are the best in the world for safety and passenger growth (despite increasing fares) but for that to continue the new government must incentivise the rail operators to provide excellent customer service and value-for-money fares; direct Network Rail to get a grip on its costs and expand rail capacity effectively; and plan for rail traffic growth, building realistic business cases for expansion.
The 10 key rail policy areas for the 2017 election which Government and the rail industry must deliver for the UK are explained in our Railfuture Rail Manifesto 2017. The Railfuture web site, national publicity and branch communications cite the many other issues that we are campaigning on both nationally, regionally and locally.
A bigger railway includes support for more capacity to accommodate growth on the network with, more rail services, longer modern trains, and incremental electrification. It also includes support for light rail and integrated rail schemes as well as line re-openings. Our branches are careful to ensure that we only campaign for line or station re-openings which are sustainable in that the business case for them is likely to be a strong one. Obvious examples are Bicester to Bedford and Cambridge, and Wisbech to March. Other re-opening campaigns are listed at Missing links and New stations.
We also campaign for light rail and for integrated transport schemes against a background where our cities are under congestion pressure and environmental and pollution issues are re-emerging as a serious health concern.
Please do not forget freight on rail. The future is all about ensuring that rail is considered properly in planning terms as freight demand moves from traditional heavy industry to distribution. The key area here is support for freight terminal construction, traditionally the preserve of nimbys.
A better railway means a more reliable railway, resilient against disruption and better information when disruption does occur. We campaign for better facilities at stations, particularly smaller stations, with good information, passenger personal security, ability to park cars and bikes and progressive improvements for disability access. We also campaign for far better fares information and passenger communication including wi-fi.
Download the full Railfuture Rail Manifesto for the 10 key policy areas which must be addressed to deliver a bigger better railway for Britain.
Putting passengers first – meeting with Paul Maynard
Letter to Chris Grayling written July 2016
Our cause - what Railfuture stands for