We all know what the passenger hot buttons are:
  • they want their train to be on time,
  • they want their journey to be value for money,
  • they want a comfortable seat,
  • they want to be treated like customers not freight – with more help when things go wrong.
But building new infrastructure is a slow process – Railfuture has been campaigning 30 years for East West Rail. So we must look further ahead and respond to what future as well as today’s passengers want.

I listened to a student at Brighton, Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College speaking at the Transport for the South East strategy launch: "We are in the midst of a climate and ecological crisis but public transport is failing…
At a time when everyone should be working together to fight this crisis, all you adults talk about is Brexit and money and the enduring need for economic growth."

They think we are failing them with a lifestyle that is not sustainable. Therefore over the next 30 years our culture will change and people will be much more open to sustainable travel choices.

Both climate change and air pollution need to be addressed - electric cars are not the answer.

In developing their strategy Transport for the South East considered four possible future scenarios before selecting the ‘Sustainable Route to Growth’ scenario, which will give the outcomes that they want.

Planned scenario for Transport for the South East strategy

The vast majority of journeys in the south-east are within the south-east, not to London. TfSE’s sustainable growth strategy calls for 108% increase in rail travel by 2050, when we must achieve net zero carbon, to avoid a major increase in road travel.

Railfuture’s 'Blueprint for the North' also calls for doubling of rail capacity.

It’s not just about new lines, although we need HS2 (connected to local rail networks), Northern Powerhouse Rail, Southern Rail Access to Heathrow and Crossrail2 to increase capacity and provide new journey opportunities.

On many routes in the North and Midlands, and on orbital routes in the South East, trains are only a few coaches long and run only once or twice an hour, so are often overcrowded with suppressed demand. These flows have huge potential and need to be developed to attract people away from their cars by increasing capacity and frequency and reducing journey time.

Image This requires infrastructure as well as more rolling stock - better signalling, longer platforms and accessible stations which accommodate greater numbers with better facilities. For example, Oxford Parkway has shortened 1 million road journeys per year.
Transport and land use planning must match.

Image New housing and employment developments must be planned in places that can be rail-served. For example, the new Meridian Water station has enabled 10,000 homes and 6,000 jobs. We need more.
We need electrification, prioritising intensively used and 100mph plus routes, using power from renewable sources, to provide sustainable and energy-efficient transport.

Image To quote the Rail Industry Decarbonisation Taskforce “…significant decarbonisation by 2050 can only be achieved with a balanced and judicious mix of cost effective electrification, coupled with the deployment of targeted battery and hydrogen technology where these are the best solution.”
Currently, rail projects are too expensive and take too long. We cannot afford to sit on our hands for twenty years before deciding to do anything. The infrastructure that we need cannot be achieved in a big bang which the industry cannot resource - the outcome would be the same as for GW electrification.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail Chief Executive said "I can see why the industry often refers to 'boom and bust' and that is largely because CP5 was a basket case…
…a large part of the Control Period 6 budget has gone on completing projects overhanging from CP5."

Politicians must understand that we need a simpler approval process and a steady pipeline of schemes which can be resourced and delivered cost effectively - and we must start now.

In summary:
• Our culture will change to embrace a sustainable lifestyle
• We need sustainable growth
• We must double rail capacity
• We need electrification
• We must enhance existing network to maximise use
• Land use planning must match sustainable transport planning
• We need to simplify the approval process
• We must create a steady pipeline of projects

Our grandchildren are watching us.

Based on the 'Infrastructure for future passengers' presentation given to the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum policy conference 'UK rail infrastructure - priorities for users, finance and delivering CP6' on 15 November 2019 by Chris Page, Chair of Railfuture.

Transport for the South East

Decarbonisation – RSSB final report to the Rail Minister

Andrew Haines in New Civil Engineer