A group of major transport authorities have called for an end to the investment 'ice age' on regional rail, arguing that a new fleet for the network would bring at least £3.90 of benefits for every pound invested.
The Passenger Transport Executive Group (pteg) – which represents transport bodies in the six largest city regions outside London – has highlighted impressive growth figures in regional rail that come despite lower levels of investment in local services.
It argues that over the last ten years, passenger kilometres and revenue have grown faster in regional rail than either InterCity or London and the South East, with individual stations showing demand growth at twice the national average, including Huddersfield up 164% Bolton (130%), Newton-Le-Willows (227%) and Leeds (146%).
The report Destination Growth - the case for Britain’s regional railways outlines two investment scenarios - one for a modern fleet of diesel trains and another for a modern fleet of electric trains.
It states there are economic benefits of between 3.9 and 4.4 pounds for every pound invested in new fleets when compared with a business as usual scenario, with lower operating costs and high passenger numbers resulting in less subsidy requirements and even the possibility of the network being self-supporting.
Tobyn Hughes, who leads for pteg on rail, said: ‘Despite an investment ice age on much of the regional rail passenger network over the last twenty years, passenger numbers have been soaring even on routes where timetables stay the same and the trains providing those services are among the oldest on the network.
‘This report shows the substantial benefits that would come from building on that base to overhaul the regional rail network as a whole. Lines with signalling systems from the age of Queen Victoria, and with trains built when mobile phone were the size of house bricks, are costly to run and put potential passengers off.
‘A better alternative is to invest to save. This will drive up patronage, reduce costs, support regional growth plans, create jobs and get more people where they need to be in a more sustainable and civilised way. We know this approach works because where we have seen regional rail routes modernised some spectacular patronage growth has followed.'