Eve of RIA Conference survey of rail businesses: More than half expect rail industry to stagnate or contract in 2020, two in five expect their own businesses to do the same

7 November 2019

A survey of rail businesses published today by independent polling company ComRes, on behalf of the Railway Industry Association (RIA) – the national trade body for rail suppliers – has highlighted concerns about the coming year, as the rail sector faces continued uncertainty. The poll of 174 businesses leaders in the rail industry shows:

  • More than half of businesses, 53%, do not expect the industry to grow in the coming year whilst 28% expect the industry to contract; and
  • Two in five (39%) rail industry leaders said they did not expect their business to grow, with 18% saying their business is likely to contract.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, said: “This lack of confidence for 2020 is clearly a concern for the Railway Industry Association and its members. Many rail businesses have told us that the combination of a lack of visibility and consistency in upcoming rail work, delayed decision-making on major projects like HS2, Trans Pennine Route Upgrade and Crossrail 2, the major industry restructures with the Williams Rail Review and Network Rail’s reorganisation, and Brexit uncertainty, are all combining to dampen expectations for the year ahead.
“Given this background, it is more important than ever that, post General Election, the new Government – whatever its political makeup – provides some certainty to the sector as a matter of priority. It will need to work with Network Rail to immediately accelerate rail works in CP6, where many members have experienced a slow start, commit to smoothing boom and bust in rail funding longer-term, ensure there is no hiatus in decision-making for major rail projects, commit to a rolling programme of enhancements schemes, including electrification, support innovation to decarbonise and digitalise the railway, and work to promote rail in exports around the world. For our part, as the national voice of the rail supply community RIA will do all it can in 2020 to support rail businesses and campaign for a bigger and better supply sector next year, so that together we can address the concerns expressed in today’s poll.”
James Rentoul, Head of Infrastructure at ComRes, said: “These results show uncertainty over the future prosperity of the rail supply sector. While business leaders are more likely to be optimistic than pessimistic, less than half feel that their industry is likely to grow in the coming year. At this early stage in CP6, we would expect greater confidence in the prospects for the sector, suggesting that the wider context of the Williams Review, Oakervee Review and Brexit, among other factors, is impacting on expectations.”

Notes to Editors

  1. Methodology note: ComRes interviewed 174 railway business leaders in the UK rail supply chain between 10th July and 12th August 2019. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
  2. The poll was launched ahead of RIA’s Annual Conference, more details of which can be found here. 
  3. About RIA: The Railway Industry Association (RIA) is the voice of the UK rail supply community. We help to grow a sustainable, high-performing, railway supply industry, and to export UK rail expertise and products. We promote and represent our members’ interests to policy makers, clients and other stakeholders in the UK and overseas. RIA has 290+ companies in membership in a sector that contributes £36 billion in economic growth and £11 billion in tax revenue each year, as well as employing 600,000 people—more than the workforce of Birmingham. It is also a growing industry with the number of rail journeys expected to double over the next 25 years and freight set to grow significantly too. RIA’s membership is active across the whole of railway supply, covering a diverse range of products and services and including both multi-national companies and SMEs (60% by number). RIA works to promote the importance of the rail system to UK plc, to help export UK expertise around the globe and to share best practice and innovation across the industry. www.riagb.org.uk

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