A new report from the Railway Industry Association (RIA) has shown that unless action is taken now on rolling stock orders for upgrade or replacement of the oldest trains on our network thousands of jobs will be at risk across the railway industry.
The report, entitled “The UK Rolling Stock Industry – making 2023 the year of opportunity not crisis”, sets out how there are currently no orders for new or upgraded rolling stock in the UK, with the current orders set to end by 2026.
The UK currently has the facilities ready to deliver modern trains with cleaner technologies including electric, battery, hydrogen and bi-mode. But in less than 12 months, major factories start to run out of work. The UK will not be able to upgrade or renew trains if the factories and skilled workers are no longer there.
This is a major strategic industry employing over 30,000 people and contributing at least £1.8 billion to the economy. In stark contrast to the prospects for the rail supply chain, the Government has this week made a strategic investment in a new battery ‘gigafactory’ in Bridgewater, Somerset, creating 9,000 jobs. While RIA welcomes this commitment to low carbon transport, support also needs to be extended to the rail supply chain to support existing jobs and clean up ageing, polluting trains.
RIA is calling on the Government to make decisions, without which there are serious potential consequences, including the loss of thousands of jobs, worsening passenger experience due to ageing trains not being replaced, increased costs in the long-run and limited deployment of new, green technologies. To avert these damaging consequences, the report is urging orders to replace or upgrade the oldest rolling stock be placed immediately.
Such orders would not require upfront public investment, as there is a proven private sector pathway to deliver new/upgraded rolling stock, with costs spread over time. The report says that costs are likely to be offset by preserving competition in the market, protecting UK skills and domestic production capability and increasing revenues through better passenger experience.
Commenting, RIA Technical Director David Clarke said: “With the last mainline order being over three years ago and no visibility of new orders for upgrading or renewing rolling stock in the UK, we are once again facing the prospect of job losses and factory closures.
“These closures would have a deeply damaging impact, with jobs, passenger satisfaction, value for money and the drive to decarbonise all undermined by the upcoming trough in the ‘boom-and-bust’ funding cycle.
“This RIA report is clear that rolling stock orders are required now. These should be ‘no-regrets’ decisions for Government as they wouldn’t require upfront taxpayer investment but would result in a broad range of benefits, from retaining jobs to immediate carbon and air quality improvement and a better experience for passengers.”