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Rail and Brexit; remain or leave? The industry verdict is in!

Posted by Stephen Scott on Jun 20, 2016

Rail and Brexit - the verdict is in! By Friday morning, the votes will all have been counted and the biggest decision the UK has taken in a generation will be known; whether to remain a member of the European Union or leave it. Our readers in the UK will be likely weary of the debates, which have turned increasingly bitter in recent weeks and the many opinion polls seem to deliver different views of the result every day.

To try and cut through the political arguments, and gauge how the result could affect the European rail industry we spoke to 35 rail professionals, both in the UK and on continental Europe, and from both train operators and commercial companies. Contributors included Network Rail, Siemens, Transport for London, Atkins and more. Our panel of experts each gave us well-considered, passionate and thoughtful opinions on the consequences of leaving. Here’s what they had to say, and what the voting intentions of our sample is... 

52% of respondents believe that leaving the EU would have a negative impact on UK rail operators.

The reasons our respondents gave were varied. Some say that leaving will decrease investment which in turn will mean higher costs passed onto the end user, with the views including: 

“Probably business travel will decrease as well the commercial trade.”

“Costs could also be somewhat higher, due to a possible rise in import prices from continental Europe.”

“The leaving of UK will, probably, decrease commercial relationship with other European partners and, consequently, slow down the transportation demand.”

Others say that being outside the EU will mean that we’ll still have to follow EU regulation but won’t have a say on it:

“They will be obliged somehow (this is market based rule) to follow the European norms and regulations without having the possibility to influence them, similarly to what happens in Norway.”

“Many rail markets are following Europe so we will still need to deal with European requirements.”

 “All the good work improving our processes and supply chain commitments delivering on our TSI requirements will be lost”

32% of the overall respondents said that there would be no change and 16% believed that there would be a positive effect due to more savings via contributions to the EU and less regulation:

“Better use of funds for service planning, better standards, and less interference.”

“Because fuel prices are higher being in the EU, savings could be passed on to rail users which might in turn encourage more rail users.”

“Less legislative interference as they can be conflicting with more thorough British standards.”

We also asked how Britain leaving the EU would affect the European rail operators and there was a split down the middle between people who could see it having no effect and others who said it would have a slightly negative effect due to a small decrease in the number of business and consumer travellers.

66% of respondents believe that leaving the EU will be bad for manufacturers and suppliers.

Of this group of people most believed that manufacturers and suppliers would find future trading difficult due to tariffs and less competition: “UK will become a less competitive market which might lead to monopoly, bring up prices with little or no improvement to quality of service to keep up with the manufacturing costs etc.”

However one believed that “The risk would be to the small plants in the UK but it might be an opportunity for the UK Government to place more contracts with UK based manufacturers

One person also foresees companies moving their capabilities inside the EU while another counteracts that no harm will come to multinational companies who are used to working in different markets but could hurt smaller firms.

11% however said that it would be very positive for manufacturers and suppliers as UK based companies would have more chance of getting contracts and the UK could make free trade deals.

Voting intentions and conclusion. 

Reading through the feedback it seems that the arguments for and against how a Brexit will affect the rail industry are the similar as how it will affect the UK as a whole. But to look at the numbers as a whole, the rail industry can be said to be in the Remain camp. 

  • 52% of rail professionals surveyed believe that the UK leaving would be Very Negative or Negative to UK rail operators (32% see it as causing no change, 8% see it as Positive with 8% consider it Very Positive).
  • 66% of survey responders believe the effect that a Brexit would have on manufacturers and service providers to the rail industry would be Very Negative or Negative (23% as no change, 0% Positive 11% Very Positive)
  • On the Vote itself 56% are planning to Vote Remain, 34% Leave with 10% Undecided - the majority of rail professionals would like the UK to remain in the EU.
  • In brief, pro-remainers believe that there will be less external investment in the future, less competition resulting in monopolies and that the UK will have to follow a lot of EU rules anyway, this time without a say.
  • Pro-leavers believe that the UK will be able to have greater control, use the money saved from EU contributions more wisely and will put in policies favouring UK based companies.
  • We spoke to 35 rail professionals, between May 10th and June 17th 2016. 
  • Contributors included representatives from Network Rail, Siemens, Transport for London, Atkins, Heathrow Express, East Coast, Motorola, Telice and more. 

Thanks to all who took part and congratulations to two lucky respondents who have won tickets to attend SmartMetro in Copenhagen this November! 

Claim your FREE LISTING and learn  other ways to partner with   the Rail & Metro Innovation Guide 2017. 


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Topics: SmartInterviews

Stephen Scott

Written by Stephen Scott

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