The UK’s Rail network is straining under the weight of increased demand with over 1.7 billion passenger journeys in 2017. With a number of high profile investment projects underway such as HS2, a whole host of international rolling stock manufacturers have been drawn to the UK but could recent controversies risk investment?
Rolling Stock Companies Circling Britain
Most Rolling Stock companies are global in footprint and it is not unusualfor trains running on the UK’s lines to have actually been made abroad. This is why it has been so exciting to see so many big manufacturers looking to set up shop in the UK and build and assemble trains on our shores. In just the last few years we’ve seen Hitatchi build a new assembly plant in Newton Aycliffe, Alstrom open a factory in Widnes, Siemens are building a factory in Goole, CAF built a factory in Newport and at the time of writing Talgo are set to announce the location of their new factory. We may actually have a glut of rolling stock manufacturers on UK shores, all creating jobs and bringing in investment.Yet at the same as we have had all of this good news on the manufacturing front, passengers themselves have been having a more turbulent time.
Over the past three years we have seen wide spread and frequent strike action from staff on various franchises. Many of the disputes have centered around pay rises and passenger safety as unions resisted action to cut rail staff by having the driver open and close the doors. Although some operators have been able to resolve these disputes there is still ongoing strike action planned by Northern on the 25th August, 1st September and 8th of September.
Time Table Chaos
Adding to passenger woes, after time table changes were brought in in may widescale delays and cancellations were experienced across the country. One train service from Newcastle to Reading even became stranded after taking a wrong turn, eventually ending up in Pontefract. The fallout from this had train operators blaming the government and vice versa with Transport secretary Chris Grayling criticising rail companies for “wholly unsatisfactory levels of disruption” following the changes. Further timetable changes in December look to have been shelved and higher scrutiny is now being placed by passengers. Rail services between Sheffield and London are now arriving up to 15 minutes later than scheduled under the new and supposedly improved timetable.
Could Today’s Issues Halt Investment?
You might not think that passenger woes could affect investment from manufacturers, after all they just make the trains they don’t run them, but growing demand for rail is far from guaranteed. Make no mistake that passengers will vote with their feet and if they are regularly experiencing disruption for a service which becomes more expensive each and every year, it’s quite likely they will look at different options. Although the rail industry make look strong today if the government and franchise owners can’t collaborate more closely and widespread delays, cancellations and strikes continue then demand may drop. In the space of 5 years the UK may suddenly become a very competitive environment for train manufacturers to operate in, without the promise of long standing orders, and who knows what effect brexit will have. This seems like a pivotal point in the UK's infrastructure plans and it will be interesting to see what practive action is actually taken.
Bronte Precision are sub-contract manufacturers making rolling stock components to customer drawings. We have made a wide variety of parts from Brake Shoes, To Oscillating Pins to Spacrers and Suspension Risers. We manufacture components for both new and old vehicles and are fully ISO 9001 certified.