techUK submits response to Rail and Urban Transport Review
techUK has submitted a detailed response to the Rail and Urban Transport Review, led by Juergen Maier and commissioned by the Labour Party.
The core focus of this review is to examine how to accelerate the delivery of better intra- and inter-city connectivity to support a strong, sustainable economy with rail and urban transport networks and infrastructure fit for the century ahead.
We have argued that in the pursuit of making rail and urban transport the backbone of the UK economy, embracing technological innovation becomes crucial. Despite the UK being a leader in digital innovation, the rail and urban transport sectors face a unique set challenges that hinder digital adoption. The government's response, specifically through the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail (2018), laid the groundwork for innovation adoption through the creation of Great British Railways as the sector’s ‘guiding mind’.
In our response, we have outlined the key challenges technologies companies face when helping modernise UK rail:
Scaling-Up Issues: Innovative solutions struggle to commercialise and scale-up in rail, limiting their impact and reach.
Underinvestment: Insufficient investment hampers systemic improvements, hindering technological advancement.
Policy Uncertainty: An unstable policy environment erodes confidence in the private sector, deterring long-term commitments.
The track ahead:
We have made a number of recommendations that we feel can help overcome the challenges identified by members:
Embracing Great British Railways: The government must fully support GBR, uniting cost and revenue, achieved through passing the necessary legislation at the earliest opportunity. GBR should act a ‘systems-architect’ that can break down silos and take decisions underpinned by a clear vision of what we want from our rail network and the role of technology in achieving those goals.
Restore the confidence of the private sector: An integrated transport vision, visible pipeline of projects and stable policy environment is necessary for restoring the confidence of the private sector to invest in the rail sector.
Unlock the potential of technology: A proactive stance on innovation is essential to position rail as a cutting-edge industry. This includes a more ambitious approach to resolving data challenges, a coordinated approach to trialing and demonstrating innovation and the deployment of readily available technologies today.
The time is ripe for decisive action and a steadfast commitment to a future where rail and urban transport seamlessly integrate with cutting-edge technology. techUK looks forward to continuing to engage on issues concerning the future of rail and transportation. For more information on our work on this place please visit our Smart Infrastructure & Systems Hub or contact [email protected].
Smart Infrastructure and Systems Group
Our Smart Infrastructure and Systems Programme is the champion for smart infrastructure deployment and governance in the UK, and the economic and societal benefits that smart technologies can deliver.
Ashley Feldman is the programme manager for transport and smart cities at techUK. Through working closely with the technology industry, his role is to promote the contribution of digital technology in driving positive outcomes for cities and transport. Through maintaining close ties to government, he also works to ensure the policy and regulatory conditions are optimised for businesses to scale innovation in the UK.
He is fascinated by cities and the built environment, having worked as a consultant on major regeneration projects across the country before joining techUK in 2022.
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