New report says railways had been ‘powering ahead’ before Covid

A REPORT commissioned by the Railway Industry Association says the railway industry is one of the sectors which are poised to lead the economic recovery after the Covid crisis. The study was carried out by Oxford Economics, and it says the industry had been ‘powering ahead’ before the pandemic caused the first lockdown in March last year.

The railway had contributed £43 billion in ‘gross value added’ {GVA) to the economy in 2019, compared with £36.4 billion in 2016. The railway industry, including its supply chain and related businesses, employed 710,000 people compared with 600,000 in 2016, and generated £14 billion in tax revenue.

The report also looks at future scenarios for rail investment based on National Infrastructure Commission  research. For example, it suggests that if rail investment was increased by 50 per cent, the rail sector would contribute to the economy an additional £5.6 billion a year between 2025 and 2029, with another 104,000 people working in the industry.

The Railway Industry Association’s chief executive Darren Caplan said: ‘This new research reveals that, pre-pandemic, the railway industry was growing, and supporting even more jobs and GVA than just a few years earlier. In 2016 every pound spent in rail generated £2.20 of spending in the wider economy, yet by 2019 this had risen to £2.50. This shows that rail is not just an important sector in its own right, but is also crucial for UK plc more widely.’

MP Huw Merriman, who chairs the Commons Transport Committee, added: ‘I really welcome this new report. It’s incredibly timely because effectively we need to do this all over again, when it comes to the investment we’ve seen from rail over the last 20 years or so – the doubling of passenger numbers since privatisation. Now more than ever, we need that same zeal and enthusiasm and dynamism which the industry has brought to deliver that success, so we can now pick back up after the pandemic has laid rail numbers low.’