Rail boss calls for business to do more to fund rail improvements: Example of a planned housing development in Manchester (artist's impression)

Wednesday 7 Sep 2016

Rail boss calls for business to do more to fund rail improvements


Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, last night called for business to play a much bigger role in helping fund rail projects and improvements.

Speaking last night at a London First event, Mark Carne said: “Railways are not just important because more and more people are choosing to use them, they are also a major driver of economic growth.

“We know that rail can unlock housing supply to bring communities that have traditionally been cut off within reach of major urban conurbations. Just yesterday we announced that we have identified almost 200 sites across the country which will deliver almost 12,000 new homes, and we are continuing to review our land assets to see what more we can do.

“All over the country, we have seen the impact of rail improvements, new stations, new lines. When railways are introduced or upgraded, investment in housing inevitably follows as businesses choose to move or set up in or near those areas.

“We know that rail investment, such as transforming stations, can drive regeneration. But we cannot continue to rely on public funding to do so. It is clear that we need to increasingly source funding from those people, authorities and businesses that directly benefit from better railways.”

During the speech Mr Carne highlighted the relative success of Britain’s railway:

  -  A doubling of passenger numbers over the last two decades

  -  40% cut in the cost of running the railway in the last decade

  -  The safest major railway in Europe

Mr Carne acknowledged how running more and more services to respond to demand had led to serious congestion on many important routes, especially at peak times, and how this has had a significant impact on being able to run a reliable and punctual service.

Speaking about what Network Rail needs to do to deliver a better railway, he said: “Network Rail is transforming to put the customer at the heart of everything we do.

“We may be a public-sector organisation, but my vision is that we behave like a private sector business – relentlessly customer focussed, cost-competitive, commercial and with a high-performance culture and a plan to deliver a railway fit for the future. Transformation is not a choice, it is a necessity.”

Looking to the future, Mr Carne outlined how, with passenger numbers predicted to double again within 25 years, he plans to be able to run many more trains on the current infrastructure without the need to build new infrastructure that would cause huge disruption to passengers and local communities and businesses. Instead Mr Carne outlined how using tube-like digital signalling technology (similar to that which has revolutionised the Victoria and Jubilee lines in London) many more trains could be run on existing tracks.

Mr Carne said: “We need to accelerate the transition to digitally run railways so we can unlock the benefits before the network is gridlocked.

“This will be the biggest transformation in the history of Britain’s railways. And I consider it a national imperative.”


Notes to editors:

Over the past six years, Network Rail has already identified and released sites that will provide  almost 3,000 new homes in Britain. Some examples of completed or planned projects include:

  • Epsom - This mixed-use development scheme was the first for Solum Regeneration, a joint venture between Network Rail and Kier Property the venture to regenerate a number of stations in the South East of England. The regeneration programme included the demolition of the existing station concourse and ticket office and the provision of new and improved station facilities, a 64-bedroom hotel, three retail units including a Tesco Metro, 54 affordable housing units and 63 private for sale apartments. The scheme also included the refurbishment of the existing underpass, stairs and station platform facilities, parking for 67 cars, 120 resident cycle racks plus a further 203 cycle racks for rail travellers. The scheme was completed in July 2013
  • Walthamstow – A mixed use development revitalising the gateway into Walthamstow town centre that will include 148 homes, a new Travelodge hotel, retail space and environmental enhancements. Planning approval was granted and the first phase is complete with construction work on the second phase starting later this year
  • Twickenham – A new station and mixed use regeneration delivering 115 homes, retail space and environmental enhancements. Planning approval has been obtained and construction starts this year
  • Gospel Oak to Barking line
    • The proposed Barking Riverside extension to the London Overground would add 4km to the Gospel Oak to Barking line, from Barking to a new station at Barking Riverside. Construction could begin next year
    • The extension would enable construction of 10,800 homes at Barking Riverside, plus a new school, healthcare facilities and a new district centre with commercial and leisure facilities, high-quality public spaces and connections to walking and cycling routes
    • The Mayor of London approved the plans yesterday (6 September)
  • Abbey Wood (Crossrail 1) - The Crossrail project will help to transform Abbey Wood in south east London. The new railway will halve journey times to many central London destinations and is already attracting new businesses and investment to the local area.


  • Passengers using Abbey Wood station
    • There are currently more than three million entries and exits at Abbey Wood station each year
    • It’s estimated that the Elizabeth line will attract an additional 52,000 passengers travelling through Abbey Wood each day
    • Southeastern currently runs up to eight trains an hour from Abbey Wood
    • The Elizabeth line will mean an additional 12 trains an hour from 2018
    • It is forecast that Abbey Wood will become an interchange for commuters changing off Southeastern services on the North Kent line and using the faster metro service which will reach destinations further into London and beyond: Canary Wharf in 11 minutes (current journey 31 minutes) and Bond Street in just 25 minutes (current journey 44 minutes)
  • Economic regeneration and inward investment
    • Crossrail is helping to transform Abbey Wood, as the prospect of significantly better transport links attracts new businesses and investment. A new Sainsbury's supermarket has opened and planning permission has been granted for 220 new homes and a new library and public square close to the station
  • We have already seen the impact of Crossrail 1 in supporting property development in East London (see Abbey Wood case study), and Crossrail 2 will provide the infrastructure needed to support a further 200,000 new homes in London

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We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

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