The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) warmly welcomes Nicola Shaw’s report on the future of Network Rail and its key recommendations, and counsels that the way the proposals are implemented would be fundamental to the continued success of rail freight and of cross boundary passenger services.
The Institute is particularly supportive of the emphasis placed on putting passengers’ and freight shippers’ needs at the heart of rail infrastructure management. The Institute supports the proposed balance between deeper route devolution and the retention of core System Authority functions at the centre; and agreed there is a need for greater clarity on the role of Government and of other organisations participating within the complex railway industry structure.
The Institute also welcomed the recognition of the need to foster appropriate skills within the sector to meet the challenges of growth and of technical innovation.
Daniel Parker-Klein, Head of Policy, CILT said: 'We fully support the objective to improve the efficiency and responsiveness of Network Rail and the further devolution of accountability to operate, maintain and renew infrastructure to Routes should be an effective way of achieving this. It is, however, essential that implementation of the new structure protects the interests of cross boundary services and their customers. For instance, the introduction of a North Route - which we endorse - would mean that all East Coast and West Coast Main Line Inter City services will traverse two and, in some cases, three Routes. The ability to run across all Routes in a coordinated manner is a significant issue for passenger service operation and is crucial for freight. Delays at Route or Concession boundaries would be unacceptable to freight customers with Just in Time supply chains, increase resource costs and potentially result in customers switching their goods from rail to road – leading to more HGV's on the roads.
'We welcome the proposals for a 'virtual' Freight Route and a Freight CEO to provide a focus for freight customers and operators, as rail now plays an important part in many UK supply chains - freight trains move over a quarter of the goods arriving at UK container ports (principally Felixstowe and Southampton) and more than half of the aggregates and building materials used in London. All these trains traverse several Routes. To be effective in their relations with devolved Routes or Concessions, the Freight Route and its CEO need real internal clout, backed up by clear organisational accountabilities.
‘We would like to see a national access planning system under the System Operator to coordinate 'paths' for freight and other services across all Routes/Concessions. The devolved Routes or Concessions should have a clear obligation or duty to work together collaboratively in support of current freight services and future growth. The Office of Road and Rail may wish to consider a new or revised licence condition requiring Network Rail and its successors to ensure Freight and other cross boundary services are effectively managed.
‘CILT supports the return to a more customer-focused financing model for Network Rail, with revenues flowing through train operators, as this should promote the benefits usually associated with normal market incentives, notwithstanding that the franchise regime is currently sustained by public funding. We agree with the analysis in the report on the relative merits of possible future funding and financing options and the overall cautious conclusions. In particular, there would need to be appropriate mitigations under part-privatisation options to avoid the long term strategic needs of the network being subordinated by pressures for short term and low risk returns.
‘CILT will consider the report and its proposals further and looks forward to the response of Government to this contribution to the strategic debate about the shape of our future railway.’