A real partnership is needed for growth: the railway is no exception
9 November 2017 | Author: Paul Plummer, Chief Executive, Rail Delivery Group

Partnerships are strongest when the parties involved respond to change together. In families, in teams, in organisations and as a nation, we grow stronger when we confront change with a shared sense of purpose.

Delivering the improved railway that Britain's commuters and businesses need and want is no different. Our railway is a partnership between the public and private sectors, and is fundamental to the country's prosperity. Sustained improvements to our network boost the economy, create jobs, and support economic growth in every region of Britain.

Through significant investment from the public and private sectors, the railway network has come a long way over the last twenty years – with better services, new routes and a doubling of passenger journeys. What's more, the operating deficit of 20 years ago is now a surplus, easing the burden on taxpayers. But for those who run and support the rail system, and indeed for business leaders, these improvements aren't enough to meet the ambitions of the country.

Our railway links people to jobs, employers to skills, customers to services, and businesses to markets. Sustained investment in maintaining and growing the network is vital in boosting the economy in every town, city and region of Britain. But it cannot come from the public sector alone – and nor can it be delivered without change across the rail industry as a whole.

We must build on the foundations created between the public and private sectors working together, to properly harness the additional funding and innovation that the private sector brings.

That is why partners from across the rail industry, with the backing of business communities across the UK, have launched a new plan to secure almost £85bn of growth to further boost the benefits that rail brings to customers and communities.

This new plan must mark the start of visible and real change. Businesses and communities in every corner of the UK have campaigned relentlessly for infrastructure and service improvements, including on the rail network. Particularly now, with Brexit on the horizon, our infrastructure backbone must be in the best possible shape if we are to successfully navigate a path through leaving the European Union.

Customers, above all else, need not just to hear about change – but to see it in action. This plan is Britain's opportunity to build a better railway that serves the people of this country for decades to come.

Major improvements are already in the pipeline, and about to deliver real benefits to commuters and businesses alike. Over the next year-and-a-half, the completion of key projects like Crossrail, the Great North Rail Project and the Edinburgh-Glasgow improvement works will transform services and add a huge amount of new capacity to our railway. In London, the Thameslink Programme will come to fruition with new routes from East Anglia to the South Coast via London, and new trains are being introduced to the Great Western Main Line as I write.

But that is just the beginning. We need to connect more of the country to new destinations, which is so critical to link more people with jobs, and firms with new markets. We need to work together to help deliver projects such as Northern Powerhouse rail, connecting local services with HS2, to ensure that the whole country benefits from better connectivity, frequency, and reliability of services.

None of this can be achieved without investment from the private sector, its ideas and innovation. But such a level of investment in our infrastructure does not just deliver benefits to business communities across the country, but it creates tens of thousands of jobs in the railway industry and the supply chain, and secures 20,000 new apprenticeships. We will invest more than £250m per year in our workforce training too, and by improving employee engagement and customer experience ensuring that everyone's experience of the railway is a better one.

Business and customer satisfaction in the railway network has had its ups and downs. The partnership that has served our railway has learned from experience – and is now working to ensure that the huge investments now being made deliver real, tangible benefits.

Now more than ever, the public and private sectors need to work together to drive lasting change by making good on the new plan. The railway is better at delivering for the country when all parts of the industry work in partnership – and when that partnership listens and responds to users and communities across the nation.

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