Home Infrastructure More railways please

More railways please

People want more railways, according to a study by  Network Rail.

According to those questioned the rail industry should be confident and ambitious. From chefs to nurses, plumbers to teachers, over 300 people were involved in 10 detailed workshops earlier this year.

Says Rick Haythornthwaite, Network Rail’s outgoing chairman, ‘The railway is a vital piece of the wiring of this country, a view that has been reinforced across Britain as we talked to people about our railway and about its future. They wanted us to be confident and ambitious, to plan and invest properly in a growing and successful railway, a railway that they want to be proud of.’

The report mirrors the traditional public affection for trains and railways. However, the workshops also indicate that, contrary to common misconceptions, there is a significant body of opinion which is prepared to back a considerable and sustained investment programme, even when the cost implications for fares and taxes are spelt out.

The railway is a vital piece of the wiring of this country, a view that has been reinforced across Britain as we talked to people about our railway and about its future.

However, transparency is essential and the government and rail industry need to be upfront about how money is spent and what people get in return. Says Tim O’Toole, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group and chief executive of FirstGroup, ‘Growth for most industries is a sign of health and celebration; in rail it is too often discussed as if it were a burden.

The rail industry was invented in this country; it is thriving and much improved in this country, so why isn’t the public debate punctuated by pride and ambition, instead of timidity and crankiness? When Rick announced his intention to find out, his audience was supportive but sceptical, and yet here it is, the start of the conversation.

The rail industry is difficult to comprehend. It is in many parts. But the fact remains, it is enjoying unprecedented growth and handling that growth with ever safer operations and ever improving performance. If we are to craft the future those facts call for, we must elevate the debate as the effort reported on in this document attempts to start.’

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