Concerns with the McNulty Review? Yes, Minister

Posted on: Tuesday, 22 March 2011 by Mike Webb in categories Media and campaigns, Rail

The Government has commissioned a review of the value for the money obtained for the taxpayer from the British railway, being chaired by Sir Roy McNulty. Whilst FTA is certainly alive to the need to ensure the railway is run as efficiently as possible, there are some key concerns which the Association and its members hold with the potential direction of travel that the study has taken.

FTA's concerns

FTA is concerned that handing greater power to the passenger franchise operators would be a bad thing for freight, as it would make the railway very much a passenger-run concern, with freight only allowed on when passenger companies dictate.

Furthermore, it has been suggested that the review will lead to the break-up of Network Rail along regional lines. For an industry which moves goods over long distances, this could create severe complications, as problems such as diversions may not be co-ordinated between regions. Also, any rise in track access charges could make rail freight still less attractive at a time when the Government is keen to get lorries off the road.

Meeting with Theresa Villiers MP

Armed with these concerns, FTA met this morning with the minister responsible for freight, Theresa Villiers MP. As Shadow Transport Secretary during the last parliament, Mrs Villiers always had an open ear for the concerns of logistics, and the meeting suggested that the same is true in Government. Following a lively and welcome discussion, it remains to be seen whether the rail freight industry has persuaded the Government of the need to act in these crucial areas.

Over recent years, rail freight has been a success story, however it is only in its embryonic phase. If the voice of rail freight were ignored when discussing management of the railway, there is a severe danger that the exact opposite of the Government’s stated preferences for freight could come to pass.

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