Friday, December 11, 2009

UK Rail Freight Group Welcomes Costs Review

Study To Investigate Rail Spending Welcomed
Shipping News Feature

UK – The British Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that it is to undertake an in depth study into the UK’s rail system in order to “the overall cost structure of all elements of the railway sector and to identify options for improving value” by scrutinising the whole financial mechanism associated with the British rail network.

In particular, the study will examine incentives to achieve greater efficiencies and identify any “legal, operational and cultural barriers” that currently may prevent achieving increased value for money for both passengers and freight.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) will be a joint sponsor of the study that will be divided into an initial scoping study and a detailed report, the former to be completed by the end of March net year.

The decision to conduct the review has been greeted with enthusiasium by the Rail Freight Group (RFG). Their chairman, Tony Berkeley, said that: “We have long campaigned that the costs of the railways are too high.

“These include stifling bureaucracy in many parts of the industry, particularly within Network Rail, in overly complex safety rules, in the rail sector having to pay to protect itself against the increasing speed, danger and driving failures of the road sector.

“Legislation on railways is extremely detailed compared with that on roads, adding significant compliance costs; getting planning permission for terminals can cost millions and take years; supplies to the rail sector often cost significantly more than comparable ones to other sectors, perhaps as a result of over detailed specifications; procurement processes are sometimes called byzantine and, on the network it still takes hours to close a line for maintenance and then reopen it when it takes a minute in Switzerland.

“Some issues have already been addressed – such as the Planning Act which will hopefully speed up the process and reduce the costs. But why should not the highways authorities fund level crossing or bridge upgrades or replacements? After all, it is usually the growth of road rather than rail traffic that causes problems there.

“We have much to learn from other countries and industries, in particular from the US, Canada, Switzerland and the Netherlands, both in reducing costs and administration, and in ensuring that maintenance, renewals, new works and other changes are achievable at the lowest cost and shortest timescale, so that there is funding and capacity available to give the long suffering customer a better deal!

“So we urge Government to ensure that this study is led by someone with a world-wide reputation for delivering projects on time, at the lowest possible cost and without any dilution of safety, noting of course that rail transport starts from being hundreds of times safer than road.”

(pic: © 1st GBRF)