How EEH and other STBs are ideally positioned to support Great British Railways

July 13th 2021

The below text is the preface toEEH's Passenger Rail Study Phase Two, and sets out EEH's view on how sub-national transport bodies can support the newly-created Great British Railways.

Realising the full potential of the Heartland’s rail network is central to achieving a transport system which supports sustainable economic growth while achieving net zero carbon by as early as 2040.

This study forms a key part of England’s Economic Heartland’s (EEH) work to implement our recently published transport strategy, Connecting People, Transforming Journeys. It provides the basis for a long-term rail investment plan for the Heartland.

Carried out in partnership with Network Rail, it is an exemplar for how sub-national transport bodies (STBs) and infrastructure owners can work together to understand the requirements for our transport networks and – crucially – how we can then make this happen.

The study’s publication follows the release of the Williams-Shapps Plan For Rail by the Department for Transport, which includes the creation of a single governing body for rail, Great British Railways (GBR). As the plan makes clear, rail has a pivotal role to play in the future of the country’s transport system.

The creation of GBR is an important step forward, reducing the complexity and fragmentation that exists in the rail industry.

EEH and England’s other sub-national transport bodies (STBs) are uniquely positioned to work with the new body to realise the potential of our rail network, building upon the strong working relationship we have with Network Rail and the wider rail sector.

Our work, including our transport strategy and this Passenger Rail Study, ensures GBR can develop its long-term strategy at pace. By aligning its activity with the STBs, GBR can deliver on the shared ambition for improved integration of transport modes. We can work together to provide leadership on decarbonisation, support economic recovery and unlock opportunities to help level-up communities.

We are particularly keen to ensure that the development of the rail sector is not inadvertently constrained by the legacy of our Victorian forebearers. This study demonstrates the extent to which we need to develop stronger inter-regional rail linkages (particularly east-west) in order to ensure that the rail sector better reflects the more diverse pattern of movements of our 21st century economy. The pandemic has only served to accelerate these changing travel patterns.

Our evidence base, which is further strengthened by this study, means it is essential that EEH has a clear role in helping develop GBR’s specifications for future rail concessions and being involved in the oversight of their implementation. EEH provides an invaluable and unique perspective, one that is critical to ensuring that the development of detailed proposals for GBR meet the expectations and requirements of the communities that it will be serving.

Working with GBR, and our other partners and Government, we will take forward the recommendations of this study to help deliver our ambition for a decarbonised transport system which supports sustainable economic growth and unlocks opportunities for our residents and businesses.

Mayor Dave Hodgson

Chair, England’s Economic Heartland Strategic Transport Forum