Our railways are crucial to the functioning of our cities, the movement of goods, the UK’s drive to net zero and importantly to social outcomes for people through improved quality of life and enhanced economic prospects. We welcome the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail which includes some bold commitments which crucially puts the customer at the heart of their proposals to reform the rail sector.
We hope the Government’s plan to establish Great British Railways as the guiding mind for the railway, owning the infrastructure, introducing simpler and more flexible fares, and joining up timetabling and other operational matters, will speed up the recovery of the rail sector from the pandemic and build a financially sustainable customer friendly railway. We look forward to learning more details over the coming weeks and months.
This new strategy is published at a pivotal moment for the sector. The Government will soon also publish the Integrated Rail Plan for the north and Midlands and is currently undertaking a review into connectivity across the devolved nations of the UK. With our long experience and considerable expertise in the rail sector, Mott MacDonald has an important role in this period of change: as the Plan for Rail makes clear, Great British Railways will draw on the best of private sector experience in all its activities, including in managing the railway and maintaining, enhancing, and renewing infrastructure.
Reducing carbon emissions from transport in general and rail in particular is essential if the country is to meet its net zero ambitions. New opportunities for rail freight, electrification and use of battery and hydrogen technology are vital components to the UK building back greener: the fact that three out of five services are currently powered by diesel shows how much work is needed. We have supported the Department for Transport by developing a masterplan for the UK’s first multimodal hydrogen transport hub in Tees Valley, backed by £3m in government funding. Progressive projects like these will enable the rail industry to play a key part in the UK’s economic recovery through job creation and the development of expertise, and in future by facilitating the export of these technologies and skills.
We look forward to working with government and Great British Railways to help develop and deliver the plan as it evolves. We will play our part in driving a growing rail network that is customer centred, efficient, digital and green, by using our skills and innovation and bringing the best of what the private sector has to offer. Together we can change the sector and improve social outcomes.
Cathy Travers, UK and Europe regional business managing director