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Revealed: the big numbers behind the UK rail industry.

Posted by SmartRail World Staff on Sep 22, 2015

Kings_Cross_2-1A new report has detailed some of the key numbers behind the rail industry in the United Kingdom – the headline figure being that it contributes up to £10.1billion in added value to the national economy every year. At the same time rail boosts economic productivity by up to £11.3billion through reduced road congestion and enabling companies to be clustered together. According to research by economists Oxera for the Rail Delivery Group which represents train operators and Network Rail, rail and its supply chain also supports 216,000 jobs. The sector also pays up to £4billion in tax to the public purse. (Pictured right - Kings Cross Station, London)

This report comes in an interesting week for the UK railway – the new Labour Leader (the principle opposition party in the UK) Jeremy Corbyn, is expected to outline his proposals this week, describing the creation of a “People’s Railway” which would see the network gradually renationalised. Whilst the Tory government look set to consider the potential privatisation of Network Rail who manage the majority of the UK’s rail infrastructure.

Some of those key numbers about he UK rail industry from the report include:

  • The rail sector benefits passengers and freight users by £14.3billion a year.
  • Up to 7.7million tonnes of CO2 emissions are saved per year by using the railway rather than other types of transport - valued at up to £460million annually.
  • Up to 865 accidents are prevented each year by the use of rail transport, leading to savings of up to £308million from the economic, medical and social costs that would be incurred by these accidents.
  • Rail passenger and freight operators in Great Britain and their supply chain employ up to 216,000 people, contributing up to £10.1bn to the UK economy a year (measured in what economists term ‘gross value added’). The rail sector also pays up to £4bn in tax to the Exchequer each year.
  • Travel on rail instead of roads reduces road congestion and enables companies to locate closer to one another. These two benefits made the UK economy more productive by up to £11.3bn in 2014.
  • Looking further afield, to other large European economies, the sector fared better during the recession in 2008 than its counterparts analysed in the study—despite the fact that the UK economy suffered the greatest fall in GDP among them. What’s more, GB rail did better than it had done in previous recessions.
  • The change in the structure of the rail industry in the mid-1990s appears to have increased the contribution of the rail sector to the UK economy by as much as 32%
  • Over the past 20 years, since the creation of the new industry model, the number of passengers journeys has risen, and as at 2015, stands at 115% higher than it was 20 years ago.
  • The distance travelled by trains has increased by 36% over the same period, and there has been an improvement in safety and an increase in passenger satisfaction.
  • There has also been a 70% increase over this time period in the volume of freight transported by rail.

The research follows on from a 2014 report that highlighted the key role rail plays in the economy.

Commenting on the report, Martin Griffiths, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group and chief executive of Stagecoach Group, said: “The railway and its supply chain are vitally important to every household in the country, linking people with jobs, paying taxes which help fund public services and increasing economic output. While other European countries have invested heavily in their railways, none has come close to matching the success of ours because they don’t benefit from the winning combination of private sector innovation and government funding. There is more to do to improve Britain's rail services, but our network has been transformed in the last 15 years and our aim is to make it even better for passengers and businesses.”

Read Building the Digital Transport Network of the Future

Andrew Meaney, Partner and Head of Transport at Oxera, the report’s authors, added: “Our analysis makes use of a range of techniques to demonstrate the substantial and ongoing economic contribution made by the rail sector.Users of rail services are key beneficiaries but our analysis demonstrates that the sector also generates benefits to everyone else such as reduced congestion, increasing business productivity and reducing both accidents and carbon emissions.”

All figures are from the Oxera report What is the contribution of rail to the UK economy? It was commissioned by the Rail Delivery Group. The full report is available here.


Mike Brown (Commissioner, Transport for London), Jon Lamonte (CEO, Transport for Greater Manchester), Duncan Cross, (Deputy Director Operations, Transport for London) are amongst the many leading speakers confirmed for SmartMetro, incorporating the 6th annual CBTC World Congress, held in Copenhagen 3-5th November 2015 allows transport leaders, innovators and specialists to share best practice, uncover new solutions and put CBTC at the heart of SmartMetro systems.

SmartMetro Incoprating the 6th Annual CBTC World Congress


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Topics: Passenger Information Systems

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