Full steam ahead for 2023: Looking ahead to a big year for rail

2nd December, 2022

The past year for rail operators and their supply chains has been a busy one, with many projects postponed by the pandemic getting back on track. But what started out as a “year of opportunity”, turned into 12 months of ups and downs, slowing the industry’s momentum. Political uncertainty during 2022, which saw no fewer than three Transport Secretaries in place, has left rail firms calling for clarity around some major issues, including Great British Railways, the Rail Network Enhancement Pipeline and HS2. With these major updates now set for 2023, rail firms will be ready to hit the ground running. Here’s what to look out for…

Announcement due on the new home of British rail

Originally set for 2022, the announcement about the location of Great British Railways’ (GBR) headquarters is finally set to be made in 2023. The competition to find a home for the new public body was launched in May 2021 as part of the Williams-Shapps Plan. GBR will oversee rail infrastructure, ticket prices and timetables and the shortlist has been whittled down from 42 towns and cities to just six – Birmingham, Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Newcastle and York. Following the shortlisting announcement, CWE firmly backed Doncaster as our preferred choice, citing the shared passion for rail between that city and ourselves. We’re expecting an announcement before April and, even though we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for Doncaster, we’ll be right behind whichever city wins the bid.

Rail Network Enhancement Pipeline (RNEP) publication and HS2 update

The RNEP is a document outlining planned rail works that require government funding. The Department for Transport (DfT) initially promised the RNEP would be published annually, but it hasn’t been updated now since October 2019 – almost three years, leaving projects shrouded in either uncertainty or delay. That edition comprised a list of nearly 60 works that Network Rail is expected to deliver during the period of April 2019 and March 2024. CWE joins others in the rail industry calling for the publication to be updated to help bring more certainty and confidence to businesses so they can plan and invest for the future. We believe greater transparency of the pipeline of orders from public sector organisations is vital to enable growth as well as value creation for small and medium businesses.

It is also hoped 2023 will see additional clarity around major projects such as HS2’s timeline – but as we head into the new year, the government has signalled it is searching for £50 billion of extra savings. This could mean HS2 faces another government review.

The time is now – decarbonisation in the rail industry

The rail industry, and rail freight, is in a strong position to help the global push for decarbonisation, with the UK committed to reaching net zero by 2050 – and with time running out, all signs point to 2023 being a key year. 

Moving goods by rail provides a low carbon alternative to road transport, with every freight train removing 76 lorries from our roads, reducing carbon emissions. The Rail Delivery Group says UK rail accounts for only around 2% of total transport emissions and 0.6% of the UK total. And we can see the results – rail has already helped to reduce UK carbon emissions by up to 7.7 million tonnes every year.

But there’s more to do and CWE recognises that all businesses – large and small – must play their part. We’ll continue to push our sustainable practices forward in 2023, and encourage our clients to keep rolling stock on the rails through maintenance.

At CWE, we’re excited about what lies ahead in 2023 for the rail industry and stand ready to help our customers get future-ready. Read about how our services are helping transform rail performance.

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