Rail can have a bright future, with our workforce at the front and centre of a transformed, growing industry vital to meeting Britain’s net zero targets.
To achieve that goal, we need to have a railway that’s up to date with today’s Britain and is financially sustainable.
The pandemic led to the biggest fall in rail journeys since records began and, while passenger numbers have increased for some journeys and at certain times, they’re still significantly below pre-pandemic levels overall.
The industry is facing a very real financial challenge, with taxpayers still supporting rail with up to an extra £175 million a month, to make up the 30% shortfall in revenue post-covid.
To attract more people onto the railway, we need to recognise that travel patterns are different now (with many more people using rail for leisure rather than commuting) and that the way we ran our services for decades is now holding the railway back.
In part, this means bringing in long overdue, common-sense reforms that would bring the railway up to date, to improve services, punctuality and customer experience. In most cases, these reforms simply extend best practice already in place in parts of the network.
By bringing how we do things into the modern age, we can make sure that the railway is fit for purpose and financially sustainable, securing its long-term future at the centre of Britain’s green economy.
Rail industry leaders have been negotiating with unions for over a year on how we can introduce these much-needed reforms to improve the service we provide to our customers. Proposals that have been put forward include measures that would offer the following:
With less reliance on voluntary overtime on Sundays, meeting the growing demand from customers for leisure travel
Making staff terms and conditions more flexible, so that staff are better able to move around the network and plug gaps in service during disruption and ensure that more trains run on time
Bringing stations up to date with the best of modern retailing, with multiskilled staff on hand in new ‘customer help’ roles, offering help across a whole range of areas from buying tickets, to journey planning and supporting those with accessibility needs
The rail industry has made multiple offers to unions over the past year to move forward with these reforms, including:
While these offers have sadly not been put out to a members’ vote by their unions, we remain open to talks so that we can resolve this dispute for the sake of our employees and everyone who relies on the railway.
See all the latest news and commentary pieces from Rail Delivery Group on Customer Focused Reform.