20 December 2018

Sub-national transport bodies (STBs) should play a key role in informing the Rail Review, according to England's Economic Heartland.

As the call for evidence launched earlier this month, the STB for the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge growth corridor and surrounding areas said it was disappointed that a representative from the region is not included on the review panel, given Government has made delivering economic growth in the region a national priority.

On December 7 EEH's Strategic Transport Forum agreed an initial submission to the review team, stating that it is 'critical that in focusing on the rail industry the review does not become too inwardly focused'.

It adds: "Government has encouraged the establishment of sub-national transport bodies on the basis that they are an effective forum for engagement on strategic transport issues. We would encourage the review team to build on the momentum achieved by the sub-national transport bodies and work closely within them – both individually and collectively."

EEH's initial submission also says that:

  • Investment in new rail infrastructure and services should be linked with planned growth ahead of need as a means of enabling more sustainable travel patterns
  • The review should examine the extent to which competition laws prevent franchise bidders which run local bus services from developing an integrated offer to the public
  • Proposals for devolution of the rail industry based on the historic network of radial routes and services run the severe risk of perpetuating a London-centric system
  • Rail freight should be a key consideration and the state should be prepared to invest in its capability on the basis of the wider public good derived from it.

EEH is planning to submit a comprehensive response to the review next year, building on its work on the draft Transport Strategy, due summer 2019, together with a forthcoming review of the current franchising map in the region.

Mayor Dave Hodgson, chair of England's Economic Heartland's Strategic Transport Forum, said: "The Rail Review presents an opportunity to redesign a system which can sometimes appear to work against the Government's aim of both growing and rebalancing the economy. Improving our rail offer is fundamental to realising the economic potential of the Heartland, so it is vital that EEH plays a key role in advising the review team.

"We are also seeking clarity on the review's terms of reference which states the rail system should be able to 'address long-term cost pressures'. We hope this doesn't imply that the level of funding for the rail sector is to remain at current levels as this is likely to act as a drag on the region's ability to realise its economic potential, improve lives and achieve 'net gain' for the environment."