The scale of the UK rail industry… it’s big!

I was delighted to speak on a Railway Industry Association panel last week at the launch of an economic impact report on the UK rail industry, commissioned by RIA from Oxford Economics.

The report catches the eye especially with these headline stats:

  • Contributes over £36bn annually to the UK economy (a greater economic impact than the food, drink and tobacco manufacturing and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries);
  • Provides around 600,000 jobs (employing more people than the entire workforce of Birmingham);
  • Generates £11bn annually in tax revenue; and
  • Generates £2.20 of income from every £1 spent on the rail network.

The scale of the UK rail industry and its true value to the national economy is significant and perhaps illustrates that for too long our sector is only talked about in the context of disruptions caused by major snow fall and the dire conditions we saw last week, rather than in a more constructive manner.

That constructive manner is one we usually frame transport policy within – that of transport as a derived utility, as a means to an end rather than an end in itself.  The value of transport and investment in transport is in the outcomes it generates beyond existing in and for itself.  So the existence of the railway is valuable because it moves people and goods to the places they are needed and now indeed we see that the railway is significantly more valuable because of the economic activity that it generates along with the wider social and environmental beneficial outcomes that it supports.

Back to the event, it was a great session and I know that we (the Panel) all enjoyed the discussion with the Q&A being lively and going on for far longer than anticipated as a result.  Many thanks to RIA for putting this on.


A cracking action shot of the Panel here in the Thames Pavilion in the House of Commons… so from the left, we have: Doug Godden (Oxford Economics, who produced the report), me, Lilian Greenwood MP (Transport Select Committee Chair), Darren Caplan (Chief Exec of RIA), Martin Vickers MP (All Party Parliamentary Group for Rail Chair) and Noel Travers (MD of Unipart Rail).

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