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Sunday, 22nd May 2011

UK: Realising the Potential of GB Rail - Report of the Rail Value for Money Study

Source: Department for Transport (UK)

From Executive Summary:

The Study has taken place at a time when GB rail can demonstrate many achievements – in terms of growth in passenger and freight markets, continued improvement in safety, increasing customer satisfaction, improved operational performance and significant investment. Particularly worthy of note is the way in which the industry has, since privatisation, reversed a 50-year trend of reduction in passenger traffic.

However, despite its many successes, there is a widespread recognition that the GB rail industry still has major problems in terms of efficiency and costs.This Study has not examined possible cuts to the rail network. The Terms of Reference made it very clear that the aim of this Study was “to identify options for improving value for money to passengers and taxpayers while continuing to expand capacity as necessary”. Accordingly, the entire focus of this Study has been on ways of improving efficiency and value for money on the basis of the existing network, and it seems clear that there is considerable scope for such improvement. As the Study has said on numerous occasions over the past year, this is Plan A. Only if all concerned failed to deliver the improvements which the Study judges to be both necessary and possible, would consideration conceivably have to be given to a Plan B – a smaller railway.

The Study has confirmed the dimensions of the efficiency gap. It estimated initially that GB rail costs should be 20–30% lower than they were in 2008/09, and commissioned a detailed benchmarking exercise comparing GB rail with railways in four other countries – France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. Although benchmarking is seldom an exact science, the clear indication from that exercise is that GB rail costs would need to be reduced by around 40% to match those comparators. As has been indicated by previous benchmarking done by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), and notwithstanding the fact that Network Rail (NR) delivered a 30% cost reduction during Control Period 3, NR’s higher costs are still a significant reason for this gap. However, Train Operating Company (TOC) and Rolling Stock costs also contribute to GB rail’s higher costs, primarily because of the lower level of train utilisation here, i.e. fewer passenger-kilometres generated per train-kilometre.

+ Detailed Report (PDF; 3.1 MB)

+ Summary Report (PDF; 1.1 MB)



Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »

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