A report on the rail industry published by the IMechE and the Transport Research Laboratory has called for an increase in R&D investment and for new technology to be introduced faster post-Brexit.
The report, Increasing Capacity: Putting Britain’s Railways Back on Track, recommends that measures such as the closer running of trains and new lines need to be introduced to support economic growth. Studies by Network Rail predict that passenger traffic will double over the next 30 years.
Philippa Oldham, head of transport at the IMechE, said: “Increasing rail capacity is vital to economic growth. High Speed 2 alone is expected to return more than £2 for every £1 invested, boosting annual productivity by over £8 billion.
“Projects nearing completion, such as Crossrail, are largely about catching up with under-investment over the past 100 years. We need to step up efforts to ease crowding, improve punctuality and unlock further capacity.”
The report says that more UK R&D investment will be required to replace EU funding post-Brexit and that, if matched with a private sector commitment to improve the railways, more jobs and exporting opportunities would arise.
Relieving bottlenecks using flyovers and shorter signalling sections are among the proposals in the report. It says: “The engineering proposals for UK rail capacity improvement are made in the context of much-needed transport infrastructure investment, where the UK falls 40% short of recommendations by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.”
Rebeka Sellick, head of rail at the Transport Research Laboratory, said: “With rail demand doubling, Brexit, and the advent of autonomous road vehicles, the UK now has the chance to develop a fully integrated strategy for road and rail.
“Railways are best for environmentally-friendly, high-capacity, long-distance journeys and for mass transit within and into our cities. Projects such as High Speed 2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and on London Underground will deliver significant capacity, but we need more.
“Closer running for more capacity with more frequent train services needs clever signalling and smart traffic management.”