The government and the rail industry have agreed a new Rail Sector Deal intended to deliver more for passengers, create jobs and drive economic growth across the country.
Hailed as a key milestone in the government’s modern industrial strategy, the Rail Sector Deal will help increase the exchange of ideas between the rail industry and other sectors, predicting problems on the network before they arise and solving them through innovative working.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) introduced its new Industrial Strategy on November 2017. This was built on five foundations – ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and places.
Each ‘foundation’ had three key policies. For example, the first policy under Ideas was to raise total research and development (R&D) investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. Under business environment was the policy to launch and roll out Sector Deals – partnerships between government and industry aiming to increase sector productivity.
The first Sector Deals were in life sciences, construction, artificial intelligence and the automotive sector. Creative industries and Nuclear followed, and then Aerospace and Rail were launched on the same day – 6 December 2018.
Speaking at the launch of the Rail Sector Deal, Gordon Wakeford, chair of the Rail Supply Group and CEO of Siemens Mobility in the UK, recalled the government’s green paper ‘Building on Industrial Strategy’, which was issued in January 2017 and challenged industry “to provide government with compelling and detailed proposals of how, working in partnership, both sides, government and sector, could agree a sector deal to further the competitiveness of the sector”.
He went on to explain that, after a long and sometimes bumpy journey to reach a conclusion, government and industry have come up with a sector deal that “will be transformational”.
“One word that shines through this document,” he continued, “is collaboration. We will increase productivity, we will reduce costs, we will move from ‘boom and bust procurement’, we will introduce new technology, release data as an enabler, improve the skills of our workforce, and not only increase local ‘value add’ through import substitution but also refocus on ways to double exports.”
Graham Stuart, Minister for Investment at the Department for International Trade, spoke on behalf of government: “Much of the network is bursting at the seams. When things go wrong, as they have this year following problems introducing the new timetable and widespread, and often unnecessary, industrial action, passengers endure poor performance, which means the railway faces greater levels of public scrutiny.
“We all know that we can do better, and that we must raise our game. This collaboration and cooperation that we are launching today between government and industry is one way of responding to that.”
The intention is that, through improved engagement between industry and government, the supply chain will understand future demand better. This will both enable companies to invest with confidence to increase skills and innovation and will also help the industry reduce the cost of building and maintaining the railway, support the sector to increase its exports, attract small businesses to the market and encourage more young people to pursue a career in the rail industry.
The full Rail Sector Deal is available online at www.gov.uk/government/publications/rail-sector-deal