Public Affairs & Policy

Rail is vital for the UK, so it is important the industry has a voice

Rail contributes £36 billion a year to the economy. It brings communities together, moves goods across the country and allows businesses to thrive. With demand for rail passengers doubling over the past twenty years, it is important for the industry to engage with politicians and policy makers from across the political spectrum. 

RIA works to represents the rail sector to key decision makers and influencers, highlighting issues of importance to our members, campaigning for sectoral growth and showcasing the value of rail to the UK. 

We regularly engage with Parliamentarians in Westminster, with devolved administrations and regional bodies and with EU representatives in Brussels. 

Read our RAIL2050 Manifesto 

Key Issues

In February 2018, RIA published The Economic Contribution of UK Rail in response to concerns that the size and economic impact of the rail industry was being under-reported.

This ground-breaking report, developed by independent researchers Oxford Economics, found that UK rail:

  • Contributes over £36bn annually to the UK economy (a greater economic impact than the food, drink and tobacco manufacturing and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries);
  • Provides around 600,000 jobs (employing more people than the entire workforce of Birmingham);
  • Generates £11bn annually in tax revenue; and
  • Generates £2.20 of income from every £1 spent on the rail network.


Read the full report here

‘Boom and bust’ funding in the rail industry is having a significant detrimental effect on the supply chain, leading to redundancies and recruitment freezes, reductions in investment, threatening the ability of SMEs to survive and adding up to 30% to rail industry costs.

RIA believes that the current five-year Control Period funding system should be improved to smooth to stop ‘boom and bust’, whilst ensuring there is not a return to annualised budgeting.

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Electrification remains the optimal form of traction for an intensely used railway, as it has a number of benefits, including costing less in the long term, reducing journey times, producing less wear on the track and being more environmentally friendly.

In 2017, the Government halted a number of electrification schemes due to cost overruns. RIA's Electrification Cost Challenge report, published in March 2019, shows how the cost of electrification can be reduced by up to 50% in comparison with some past projects.

RIA urge the Government to develop a ten year rolling programme of electrification that allows the sector to build up expertise and capabilities, in order to deliver efficiently. By doing so, we can achieve the Government's aim of decarbonising the rail network by 2040.

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RIA continues to support HS2 and Crossrail, but we also seek to ensure support is maintained for Northern Powerhouse Rail, East West Rail, Trans Pennine Route Upgrade, Midlands Rail Hub and Crossrail 2 – all of which will provide significant economic boosts across the UK as well as improving connectivity and capacity.

Brexit poses a number of challenges and opportunities for the rail industry.

Challenges include the  need for certainty on whether rail standards will be harmonised, diverged, or a mixture of the two, ensuring there is continued access to certain a skilled workforce and avoiding any overly bureaucratic tariff or non-tariff barriers, which could cause border delays for exporting suppliers.

The main opportunity is the role of rail in trade deals. Given the size and strategic significance of rail to UK plc it is important the rail sector is included in – and takes advantage of – trade deals when the Department for International Trade negotiates with non-EU and EU countries.

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The Government has moved the decision-making process for rail infrastructure improvements, known as enhancements, to a new pipeline approach, where individual projects progress through different stages before coming to market. This is known as the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP).

The UK rail network needs enhancements to increase rail capacity, improve journey times, and generate further economic growth. The Government also has goals to decarbonise the rail network, which can only be achieved through enhancement projects. However, there are currently no construction-ready schemes in the RNEP, which was published in October 2019. RIA believes we need projects to progress quickly through the RNEP so the supply chain can deliver improvements to our rail network.


Our Commitment to Ethical Lobbying

RIA is fully committed to ethical and transparent lobbying and is a member of the Public Affairs Board of the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA). All RIA employees involved in lobbying activities have signed the Public Affairs Code and attended training sessions.

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RIA is also on the European Commission Transparency Register and list all members on our Public Affairs & Comms Network (PACN) here. 

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