Whatever the election result, change is coming for the rail industry

Today is the day that millions of people will go to the polls to decide who should be running the country.

Although a lot of the talk has been about the future of Brexit, one key policy for all the main parties has been transport and specifically the UK’s railways.

One common theme across all the parties has been an increase in spending to improve the rail network, while other issues such as HS2 have left the parties divided.

Below we’ve outlined some of the main proposals.

The future of HS2

Looking at the HS2 project, this would be scrapped by Brexit Party, Green Party, Plaid Cymru and UKIP.

The Liberal Democrats supports HS2, while Labour says a long-term investment plan would include the completion of the full HS2 route to Scotland.

Meanwhile the Conservatives say the findings of the Oakervee review will be considered when it comes to the costs and timings of HS2 and the pledge is to work with leaders of the Midlands and the North to decide the optimal outcome.

 

Further investment in lines

Investment is coming whichever party is elected.

The Conservatives pledge includes plans to build a Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester and then focus on Liverpool, Tees Valley, Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle. There are also planned investments in the Midlands Hub and improvements to train lines to the South West and East Anglia.

Under Labour the long-term investment features plans for Crossrail for the North and high-speed rail networks, but also rail electrification and expansion across the whole country, including Wales.

The Liberal Democrats’ proposals include Northern Powerhouse Rail, East-West Rail and Crossrail 2.

Under the Brexit Party plans to scrap HS2, they say they would invest over £50 billion in the ‘left behind’ regions in local rail and road schemes. UKIP, which also wants to scrap HS2, says they will invest in the existing railways to improve capacity and journey times

The Green Party wants to create three electrified rail lines running from Liverpool and Manchester to Sheffield, Hull and the Tees Valley.

The SNP says it will make rail services significantly more efficient, faster and greener with reduced journey times between London and Scotland.

Plaid Cymru will electrify all mainline rail lines by 2030, building a super-Metro for south-east Wales and the new Swansea Bay and Western Valleys Metro. The party would also reopen rail services for the Amman, Swansea, Neath and Dulais Valley, develop a metro for north-east Wales, creating a trans-Wales railway and a Cross-Rail for the Valleys.

 

Bringing old routes back into use

It was over 50 years ago that the Beeching report was published, spelling an end for thousands of stations and hundreds of branch lines.

But in the run up to the General Election the Conservatives, Labour and UKIP have pledged to look at some of these derelict lines with the potential for their restoration.

 

Ownership

There could be changes when it comes to the ownership of the UK’s railways.

For the Conservatives, the party says it will end the complicated franchising model and create a ‘simpler, more effective’ rail system, which includes giving metro mayors control over services in areas.

Labour would bring the railways back into public ownership as franchises expire with the publicly owned rail company steering network planning and investments, co-ordinating mainline upgrades, re-signalling, rolling stock replacement and major projects. Labour also plan to expand the provision of publicly owned rail freight services.

The Liberal Democrats says it would start a revolution in rail franchising by opening up the bidding process to public sector companies, local or combined authorities, not-for-profits and mutuals. They say they would create a new Railways Agency to oversee the operations of the railway network, removing the Department for Transport from day-to-day decision making.

The Green Party says it’s committed to renationalising rail over 10 years and would give councils or groups of councils franchising powers for local rail services.

The SNP demands that full control of Scotland’s railway system is devolved to the Scottish Parliament – putting Scotland’s railways into public hands.

Meanwhile UKIP says all options would be considered in terms of rail operators, but they suggest problems could be solved by taking control by means of a new Government-owned company to run the franchises.

Passenger experience

All the parties have their own ideas to improve the passenger experience and to encourage more people to turn to trains.

Under the Conservatives, contactless pay-as-you go ticketing would be extended to almost 200 more stations in the South East.

Labour wants simpler, more affordable fares, with a pledge to ‘cut the wastage of private profit’, improve accessibility for disabled people and ensure safe staffing levels and end driver-only operation.

The Liberal Democrats says rail fares for commuters and season ticket holders will be frozen for a parliament, while the party fixes what it calls a ‘broken fares and ticketing system’.

The Brexit Party says an investment would be made in digital infrastructure providing free base level domestic broadband for everyone and free Wi-Fi on all public transport.

The Green Party wants rail fares reducing to encourage people to switch from cars, while the SNP wants to make rail services more efficient, faster and greener.