This paper provides an overview of the current rail system, including how it is delivered and how it performed and was financed up until the spring of 2020 when the UK locked down in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. It explains the impact of the pandemic on services and funding and sets out reforms to rail passenger services (franchises) as a result of the pandemic. The final section discusses the Williams Rail Review, initiated in 2018 and yet to report publicly, setting out the emerging conclusions and key questions to be answered.
In February 2015, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson outlined a six point long-term economic plan for London. This plan was composed of six broad aims:
- Adding £6.4 billion to the London economy by 2030.
- Creating over half a million extra jobs in London by 2020.
- Building over 400,000 new homes
- Delivering £10 billion of new investment in London’s transport over the next Parliament
- Making London a centre of the world’s creative and commercial life, with new investment in science, finance, technology and culture.
- Giving new powers for the Mayor of London to support economic growth and planning
The plan also included a proposal to establish a West Anglia Task Force to look at upgraded rail infrastructure on the West Anglia Main Line with a view to “improving connections to Stansted and Cambridge from Liverpool Street and Stratford.”
West Anglia Taskforce
The formation of the West Anglia Taskforce was announced in September 2015. The Taskforce is composed of 16 members, including representatives of the rail industry and stakeholders from areas along the line. The Taskforce is chaired by the Rt. Hon. Sir Alan Haselhurst MP; a full list of members is available on the Taskforce website.
The Taskforce’s terms of reference outlined its long term as “supporting and enhancing the economy of London and West Anglia. As such it will challenge local authorities and local economic partnerships to demonstrate and build upon the economic benefits derived from improvements to journey times along the route.”
The Taskforce published its final report, A strong case for investment in rail to support growth on 27 October 2016. This included a five point call for action:
- Journey times of 60 minutes to Cambridge and 40 minutes to Stansted in 40 on Liverpool Street services.
- Improved service levels to other communities along the route to support economic growth.
- A new timetable by 2020 to take advantage of new, faster and longer trains;
- Four-tracking the railway in the mid-2020s as a precursor to Crossrail 2 opening in 2033.
- Progressing Crossrail 2 ahead of submitting a Hybrid Bill by 2019.
West Anglia Taskforce, A strong case for investment in rail to support growth, October 2016
 HM Treasury and The Rt Hon George Osborne MP, Long term economic plan for London announced by Chancellor and Mayor of London, 20 February 2015
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