Britain’s railways are the most improved in Europe, according to the most comprehensive comparison study yet published of the rail networks in all 27 EU countries.
The report looks at how the railways in Europe have progressed and improved since the 1990s according to a range of 14 different factors. Britain came top in four of the factors, second and third in another two and fourth in three, coming top overall.
Europe’s other big rail networks - Germany, France and Italy - came 7th, 10th and 23rd respectively.
Network Rail’s chief executive, David Higgins said: “We made clear in our five year plan published in January that we are under no illusion about the challenges that both we, and the passengers who use the railway, face on a daily basis, and the need to keep improving from the low base to which Britain’s railway had sunk in the 1990s. We continue to work with other railways so that we can all learn from best practice in our businesses and we welcome efforts by the Commission to provide improved consistency and transparency of data.
“This report shows both the progress that we have made in driving forward our performance, and the very real challenges and opportunities that the growth in demand poses for us all. We run one of Europe’s most intense, fastest growing railways with all the implications for wear and tear as well as congestion that that implies. That is why we have made the case for sustained investment in both renewing and modernising the railway while increasing its capacity.”
Vice-President of the Commission, Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas, said: “Europe’s railways are in transition. New investment and new business models are needed to take advantage of the opportunities arising from high fuel costs, urbanisation and the need to decarbonise – and to counter the loss of government subsidies in a time of economic difficulty. That is why in January the Commission proposed major reforms in particular for the European passenger market. Today’s report helps us compare railways across the EU in order to identify best practice. And it shows that there are many lessons to be learnt from the UK experience.”
Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: “This assessment highlights the real benefit which privately-run, publicly-accountable train companies have brought to passengers and taxpayers in Britain. After decades of decline, a booming railway is generating more money to pay for improvements both now and in the future, and it is good news if others in Europe can benefit from our experience.
“But we know there is still much to improve and many challenges to meet in the coming years, so we are working hard with the rest of the industry to make rail travel more affordable and offer even more and faster services that meet passengers’ expectations.”
Graham Smith, director-general of the Rail Delivery Group said; ‘It is pleasing to see the UK at the top of the European rail league in so many respects. It is the job of the Rail Delivery Group to keep the UK in that position and to lead the industry in improving its placing where there are opportunities for improvement’.