Lessons of liberalisation: How do Britain’s railways really compare with others in Europe?

19 March 2017  •  Author(s): Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy at the Rail Delivery Group (RDG)

Lessons of liberalisation: How do Britain’s railways re ally compare with others in Europe?

Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy at the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), shares the realities of the UK’s railway performance – and it’s better than you’d think.

In Europe the narrative of liberalisation of the railways is often that it increases costs and reduces levels of performance. However, this narrative is not reflected in the independent comparative data (RMMS 2016): in fact, in Britain – a market liberalised over 20 years ago – we have seen very high performance in many of the metrics. As the Fourth Railway Package market pillar is implemented across the EU, many railways have requested visits to Great Britain in order to understand our experience. We are keen to share the full picture, including the challenges. There is no way to sugar-coat some of the difficulties we’ve experienced, particularly in the early days. However, when we review the outcomes of liberalisation underpinned by independent data there are plenty of positives to regale our visitors with. In Britain we have seen doubling of passenger journeys and some of the most significant freight growth in Europe since liberalisation. First and foremost, our growth has been accompanied by a strong safety record, second only to Ireland in terms of accidents per million train kilometres. There have been no passenger fatalities in train accidents in Britain for just over eight years. We continue to work hard to further improve our safety culture including sharing experience and learning from our European counterparts.

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