Rail Partners, centre of expertise, goes live
Rail Partners - railpartners.co.uk
The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, published last May, set out a pathway to deliver the shared ambition for a better railway for customers and the nation as a whole. To support this transformation, on 25 May, ‘Rail Partners’ was stood up – a new trade body for private sector rail freight and passenger companies. It will provide advocacy, policy and operator services, and a public facing launch is being planned for later this summer.
Rail Partners exists to make the railway better, by harnessing the expertise and commercial drive of the private sector. It does this for the benefit of those who use it, our customers, and those who pay for it, including taxpayers, strengthening the economy, and supporting net zero ambitions.
It’s a bold statement, but how to achieve it? From the outset, Rail Partners has the backing of a wide spectrum of the private sector part of the industry, benefiting from hundreds of years of industry knowledge and experience. Every owning group has chosen to join either independently, or through their joint ventures, as well as four out of five of the largest freight operating companies. That represents over 90% of the rail freight industry, and discussions with the fifth are due to complete shortly.
Drawing on the expertise of its robust membership, Rail Partners will offer policy solutions and advocacy for its private sector members, in addition to core rail operational services available to the 21 passenger operators that have joined from both the private and public sectors. Immediate policy priorities for Rail Partners include getting the design of Great British Railways (GBR) right and making sure the new Passenger Service Contracts, replacing the old franchise system, give private sector operators the flexibilities, levers and incentives to respond to changing customer demands as we rebuild after the pandemic. We also need an ambitious growth target for rail freight.
There are a variety of ways members can get involved in the work of Rail Partners. We have looked to establish a more streamlined overall governance structure, with greater flexibility and agility for thematic networks and task and finish groups, which will bring subject matter experts together. These will be guided by our Passenger and Freight Councils as well as a new Operators Group comprising TOC managing directors.
In this period of profound, continuous change for the railway, Rail Partners will provide a much-needed voice for its members. Rail Partners will be a constructive partner to RDG, the Department for Transport, Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT), and, in the longer-term, Great British Railways. In putting the passenger, freight customer and taxpayer at its heart, Rail Partners, where necessary, will also play the role of critical friend to ensure that the most is made of this important opportunity to reform. Ultimately our ambition is shared with the Government: a better railway with customers at its heart. If we get reform right and harness the best of the private sector, Britain’s railway can and should be the low carbon spine of a thriving economy in the years to come.