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Past, Present and Future of UK Rail

There has never been more investment in the Rail industry and yet it is still struggling to cope with passenger numbers which are higher than they’ve ever been. So what needs to be done?

Past Glories

As the birthplace of the locomotive, the UK used to be world leaders when it came to train manufacturing. A whole host of companies popped up during the steam revolution providing the UK with one of the most extensive and varied range of rolling stock across Europe. We were very much at the forefront of rail engineering.

Then the car came along and changed everything. Since the 1960’s automobiles became more accessible and as they did so, passenger numbers across the UK began to fall, reaching their lowest levels in the late 1980’s.

Today’s Climate

Since the privatisation of the Rail industry in 1995, passenger numbers have more than doubled and are now at their highest levels since 1900s. The industry is struggling to meet demand and often falls under heavy criticism from passengers due to rising prices and poor service levels.

Heavy investment has gone into the industry, but this may only be a stop gap measure. Rail firms complain that their forecasted orders, which used to run for 3 and 4 years no longer do. Without this certainty of orders, Rail firms have struggled to plan long term in terms of training of staff, business growth and long term re-investment.

At the same time a significant skills shortage currently exist in a number of key areas including track welding. The lack of people means that wages have been inflated, which in turn makes the UK less competitive then some of its neighbours. These inflated costs are also another reason behind higher prices passed onto the customers.

The Future

With a rising population, it’s clear that the demand for Rail will only go up. In order to build in a sustainable sector its key that the following happen.

New Blood: We need more people to enter into the rail sector and be upskilled in order to deflate the current wages, make the sector more competitive and ensure that key skills are in place for the long term.

New Suppliers: The UK government already has a hard target to increase the amount of SME’s in the supply chain. More competition in the sector can only be a good thing, and will hopefully encourage more home grown businesses in the sector.

New Scrutiny: There is currently a high level of scrutiny on the Rail sector and it’s key that this is carried on and applied not just to operating companies, but everyone in the sector. This is key in ensuring that Rail doesn’t forget that its priority should be to people and not profits.

Bronte Precision are a CNC Machinist based in Bradford who work alongside leading Train manufacturers in the production of parts for rolling stock. We are ISO certified and offer competitive pricing on medium volume machining.