Network Rail chair endorses Independent Transport Commission report concluding railway development too important to be left to rail industry alone

 

Sir Peter Hendy

 

Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy has endorsed a report from the Independent Transport Commission calling for the industry to become more outward-looking in order to attract local private and public sector funding for infrastructure schemes and increase the railway’s value to communities and businesses.

In his foreword to the Classic Rail and Connecting Cities report, Hendy said the industry needed to gear up for the challenge of meeting forecasts that patronage will double in the next 25 years by gaining greater understanding of how companies, house-builders and local authorities want the network to develop.

“The industry spends a lot of effort making itself work through contracts and agreements and with government, less in relating to the world outside it,” Hendy said. “It thus needs to relate to other stakeholders who have land ownership, funding, planning powers and responsibilities and even more importantly identify those who would benefit from railway enhancements to make sure they contribute as much as they can to schemes that create wealth, and growth for them.”

He added that the ITC’s work should “encourage everyone concerned to look for the wider economic benefits of proposed schemes, and seek out funding contributions to them”.

We regard rail system development as too important to just be left to the rail industry alone

In its report, the ITC suggests a new approach to railway planning that looks “beyond the red line of the railway boundary to the surrounding area may deliver significantly better overall results and value for money than a purely rail-centric view focused just on passenger numbers”. It calls for the rail industry to work with local authorities and land developers to plan rail projects against a long term 30-50 year perspective. Doing so, it argues would help to reverse the trend of UK housing and business parks being built without adequate transport access, prevent new stations (such as East Midlands Parkway) being of limited use to communities, and help to future proof investment.

Similarly, the ITC calls for “the separate organisations planning bus and rail services” to consider how to integrate poorly connected public transport hubs. For example, it suggests that bus services in cities such as Glasgow and Swansea could be remapped as cross city services connecting bus and rail stations rather than operating as radial routes into the bus station.

Further suggestions include exploring a blueprint for a new generation of parkway stations developed as multi-modal public transport interchanges integrated with housing development, childcare facilities, early years education, health services, car maintenance services and click and collect logistics points.

Where rail-led economic and urban development has been most successful in the UK, the ITC points out that it has often been overseen by a development agency or local authority with a co-ordinating remit as with the regeneration of London’s Docklands.

“Meaningful, early engagement of multiple organisations and local groups – not just on design issues, but through the build and delivery, as well as continuously managing and maintaining the assets after completion – is key to the success of the railway of tomorrow,” ITC director Matthew Niblett commented. “We regard rail system development as too important to just be left to the rail industry alone.”

 

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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