Liberal Democrats

F38: Building Railways Fit for the 21st Century

F38 Building Railways Fit for the 21st Century

10 members

Mover: Baroness Randerson (Spokesperson for Transport).

Summation: Caroline Pidgeon AM (Spokesperson for London).

Conference notes that:

  1. Passenger use of rail has been increasing, but passenger satisfaction is at its lowest level in ten years.
  2. Train punctuality is the worst it has been since 2006 and yet fares have risen by nearly 57 per cent since then.
  3. To combat climate change the UK must achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and the railways will play a vital role in reducing emissions from transport.

Conference believes that:

  1. The railways are already, to a large degree nationalised and further nationalisation will solve nothing: renationalisation is expensive and will not make the railways cheaper, more punctual or less micro-managed and would be a costly distraction.
  2. For the UK's cities to be successful and environmentally sustainable, they must be served by a growing and modern rail network that people can reliably use to commute.
  3. The rail ticketing system is outdated and does not reflect the needs of passengers in the 21st century.
  4. The Department for Transport (DfT) excessively micromanages parts of the rail network - running railways is an expert job and should be left to industry experts working to strategic priorities set by local and central government.
  5. The railways should be a green and environmentally friendly option for passengers and freight.

Conference therefore supports the following policies on rail, taken from the spokesperson's paper Building Railways Fit for the 21st Century:

  1. A new approach to commuting that will allow people throughout the UK to use the railways to travel to and from work, through:
    1. Large-scale investment in existing commuter lines as well as investment in new and reopened lines, especially existing commuter lines.
    2. Investment in light rail and trams where this is more appropriate than heavy rail.
    3. Transforming stations into transport hubs and encouraging people to move away from using the car - meaning better integration with bus services and improved cycling infrastructure.
  2. An overhaul of the broken fares and ticketing system, by:
    1. Using technology to simplify fares, ensuring that travelcards and contactless cards automatically charge passengers the cheapest fares available, and apply discounts equivalent to those with season tickets for people commuting regularly making the same or similar journeys.
    2. Adapting season tickets for part-time commuters so that people who commute to work regularly but on a part-time basis, also receive discounted fares.
    3. Introducing 'early bird' fares to spread out the morning peak and ease congestion on services immediately after peak times.
    4. Rolling out 'delay repay' to all rail operators, encouraging operators to automatically pay compensation to passengers using contactless cards including exploring a system that works better for shorter journeys.
    5. Expanding the BritRail scheme that is currently available to foreign tourists so that it is available to UK citizens for up to one month per year.
  3. The creation of a new Railway Agency, removing the DfT from day-to-day decision making and incorporating the rail elements of Office of Road and Rail that will:
    1. Oversee the day-to-day operations of the railway.
    2. Be responsible for planning new investments, making the case for investment to DfT and for revising the fare structure - as well as the existing responsibilities of the bodies that are rolled into the new agency.
    3. Be transparent and accountable: it would hold regular public meetings and would be open to Freedom of Information requests.
    4. Include representatives from Network Rail, the Rail Delivery Group, the Local Government Association and passenger groups, to ensure that all concerns are understood.
  4. Creating a greener railway, so rail remains a clean option compared to cars and buses, by:
    1. Expanding rail electrification and moving away from the heavy and expensive hybrid electro-diesel trains.
    2. Supporting the development of new technologies such as batteries and hydrogen as alternatives to diesel and ensuring that all new trains are designed with efficiency in mind.
    3. Fitting stations and idle space alongside the rails with renewable power generation, such as solar panels or wind turbines.
  5. Investment to improve railways and make them safer and more accessible to all, by:
    1. Supporting big infrastructure projects like Crossrail 1 and 2, HS2 and HS3, but with greater public scrutiny of expenditure.
    2. Rolling-out digital signaling to increase capacity across the rail network.
    3. Ensuring that all major stations with step-free access are staffed from first to last train.
  6. Reforming franchising to open-up the bidding process to public sector companies, local or combined authorities, not-for-profits and mutuals, making greater use of the concession model which has worked effectively in London and exploring outcomes-based contracts for those areas abandoned by current franchises.
  7. Delivering improvements to the railways and wider transport system by devolving power to local and combined authorities, while ensuring proper accountability including by:
    1. Ensuring that passengers who use a service but do not live within the authority that commissions the service have a means to hold the authority to account.
    2. Enabling local and combined authorities to set outcomes for the integration of services and to develop concession models for specific areas where appropriate.
  8. Keep passenger and freight services apart by investing to increase new passenger services and improving existing freight services.

Applicability: England only; except 2. e) (lines 56-58) which is Federal; and 6. (lines 93-98) which is England and Wales.

Mover: 7 minutes; summation of motion and movers and summation of any amendments: 4 minutes; all other speakers: 3 minutes. For eligibility and procedure for speaking in this debate, see page 4.

The deadline for amendments to this motion is 13.00, Monday 2 September; see page 6. Amendments selected for debate will be printed in Conference Extra and Tuesday's Conference Daily. The deadline for requests for separate votes is 09.00 Monday 16 September; see page 3.

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