Posted 1st November 2023 | 2 Comments

Rail supply industry pessimistic about prospects

The Railway Industry Association conference opens in London today, and a new poll has been published which suggests that most railway suppliers are pessimistic about their prospects for 2024.

RIA says only 24 per cent of the companies which responded believe the rail supply industry will grow in the coming year, with 54 per cent saying it will contract. RIA points out that this is the highest negative rating over the past five years.

Even so, 48 per cent think their own businesses will grow, but 28 per cent are expecting their turnover to contract.

More than four out of five (83 per cent), think there will be a pause in rail supply contracts during the coming year, because of uncertainty over major projects or the continuing delay in setting up Great British Railways and the reforms that are due to follow.

RIA said: ‘These findings represent a significant increase in negative sentiment among businesses across the sector over the last 12 months.’

Recruitment will be reduced or frozen at 44 per cent of companies, compared with 26 per cent in 2022, while 42 per cent will concentrate on the export market and 35 per cent will pause or ease back on plans to expand in the UK.

A further negative figure is the 87 per cent of rail supply chain companies who do not believe that the government will achieve its decarbonisation targets of removing all diesel-only trains by 2040 and achieving a fully Net Zero railway by 2050.

RIA chief executive Darren Caplan said: ‘The survey’s conclusions are deeply concerning. They show rail business leaders in the UK anticipating a contraction in the rail market at a time when Unife, the European trade association, is predicting 3 per cent rail market growth every year around the world.

‘The findings show the lowest levels of confidence among senior leaders on the growth outlook for their businesses over the next five years since 2019. Over 80 per cent forecast a hiatus in work in the year ahead, as the government has still not set out clear steps on rail reform or firm commitments and timescales for delivering major projects. This adversely impacts recruitment, expansion plans and suppliers, who will seek overseas markets where the prospects are considered better.

‘With many rail business leaders still reeling from the news that HS2 Phase 2 between Birmingham and Manchester has been cancelled, the findings from this survey support the need for more certainty from the government on what national, regional and local rail work – both track and train – it wants the railway industry to deliver in the months ahead.’

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    I suggest 'Working From Home' using the Internet is the best way to achieve 'Net Zero'. However I agree if we must travel, then rail is the least polluting option. Government borrowings, and interest payments on that borrowing, are at record highs. I can't see any Government able to subsidise rail travel any more than they do at the moment, - and will try and achieve savings. There are plenty of other demands on Government expenditure before the Railways. I suggest ordinary people will have less money to spend on leisure travel than they have in the last decade.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    The bottom line is 'what passenger numbers can be expected and where?' The second is 'where can we quickly achieve some growth?' The number of people and firms willing to pay out their cash on Rail Travel determines everything.
    [The prospects for growth in the future are key, but it seems likely that the railway will need five years to recover from Covid. Leisure travel has already recovered, and is setting new records on some routes. Commuting was already changing before 2020, but here too there are signs of a recovery. In any case, it is not all about money. The railway is our best transport route to Net Zero if we want our children and their children to still have a planet they can live on in a century from now.--Ed.]