Uncertain Easter for rail manufacturers and suppliers - action not words needed on rolling stock orders

29 March 2024 

With Easter approaching Government promises to issue orders for new rolling stock remain unfulfilled more than four months since the Transport Secretary pledged to issue a road map for procurement. This situation risks the UK’s future rail manufacturing capacity as well as thousands of good jobs in the wider supply chain across the country. 

Rail & HS2 Minister Huw Merriman MP told the industry in a letter on 31 January that ‘new competitions are now underway… subject to business case approval.’ However, the timelines for finance, manufacture or delivery are only indicative. 

In July 2023 the Railway Industry Association (RIA) published a report, ‘The UK Rolling Stock Industry – making 2023 the year of opportunity not crisis’, which emphasised that there were no live orders for new rolling stock in the UK, with the current orders set to end by 2026. As of today, there are few substantial orders for new trains. 

RIA reiterates its call on the Government to urgently make decisions and place orders, without which there are serious consequences, including the potential loss of thousands of jobs and factory closures throughout the supply sector. 

Commenting, RIA Chief Executive Darren Caplan said: “Railway Industry Association members feel that the last year has provided little in the way of opportunity for rolling stock manufacturers and the wider supply chain, and this Easter things are no more certain. Already this year a number of SMEs have gone into administration, due to a lack of decisions being taken and orders being place. We ask the Government to recognise these developments as the canary in the coalmine and take urgent action. 

“It has been more than three years since the last mainline train procurement and the lack of commitment to new orders for rolling stock in the UK means that more rail suppliers face the prospect of job losses and factory closures, with an adverse impact right across the supply chain. 

“RIA and our members continue to urge the Government to act now and issue an order for trains which could be deployed widely across the network. These are ‘no-regrets’ decisions as they do not require any upfront taxpayer investment, but still result in a broad range of benefits, from retaining jobs to immediate sustainability improvement and a better passenger experience. We hope this call for action is heeded quickly.”  

Notes to Editors
  1. Transport Secretary Mark Harper told the Transport Select Committee on 15 November 2023 that the Government ‘would set out publicly by the end of the year the road map for procurement.’ He said rolling stock is a ‘very important industry and one that we strongly support.
  2. Huw Merriman MP 31.1.24 letter to rail industry on rolling stock can be found here.
  3. Rolling stock is a major strategic industry employing over 30,000 people and contributing at least £1.8 billion to the economy.
  4. An order of battery-electric trains would not require upfront public investment given the established model for financing rolling stock.
  5. RIA’s 2023 report found that issuing procurements for rolling stock generates economic benefits by preserving competition in the market, protecting UK skills and domestic production capability and increasing revenues through better passenger experience. The full report can be found here.