The expansion of the railways and their place at the heart of recession-beating Britain was further emphasised by Minister of State for Transport, Simon Burns.
Speaking at the Railtex exhibition in Earl’s Court, London, the Minister said, ‘Our railway has already seen passenger journeys double since privatisation, while freight business has grown by 60%. The future looks even brighter.’
Simon Burns, a Conservative MP since 1988, acknowledged the transport failings of previous governments. ‘The truth is that since the coming of the motorways more than 50 years ago, our transport infrastructure has fallen behind that of our competitors.
‘Even when money was plentiful successive Governments of both political parties neglected the rail network.’ Between 2000 and 2007 Britain was the lowest infrastructure investor of all the OECD countries.
‘This Government is determined to change all that,’ said the Minister. Backing this up he listed projects ranging from Crossrail to the Northern Hub, Great Western Electrification and the Intercity Express Programme. Network Rail plans to spend £37 billion between 2014 and 2019.
The Coalition Government is under no illusions about the urgent need to build High Speed 2. ‘HS2 isn’t just about faster trains. It’s about providing extra capacity on an ageing rail network.
‘It’s about better services for passengers, it’s about changing our economic geography, connecting cities, linking people with jobs, bringing suppliers closer to manufacturers and manufacturers closer to markets, taking pressure off our roads and freeing up space on the rest of the railway. High Speed 2 will also be a tremendous boost to the UK rail industry.’
To deliver the railways of the future the industry needs more skilled engineers and operators. The race is on to attract new skilled people to railways as projects and investment increase.
‘We all know that this is an exciting industry to work in, with real prospects for people who are creative and work hard. But what we have got to get better at is convincing the younger generation of this fact and the opportunities available to them.’
Simon Burns visited the Rail Media stand and endorsed the achievements of RailStaff and the rail engineer in running good news stories about railways.
Railtex visiting numbers were 20% up on the last exhibition and exhibitors from 17 countries homed in on the show. Railway staff from across the network also attended, making the three day event a ringing endorsement of Britain’s recession defying railway.
If you missed them at the show, see our run down of some of this year’s exhibitors here.