• Role of the railway

    Role of the railway


Our railway is vital for GB

Britain's railway is increasingly important to enable jobs, housing and economic growth:

  • Millions of people and businesses depend on the railway every day. Britain needs a modern railway to carry more passengers and to support jobs and the economy.
  • The railway and its supply chain support 216,000 jobs and pay up to £4billion in tax to the public purse, boosting the UK’s productivity by £10billion a year.
  • Freight trains take 7.6million lorries off the road each year, cutting congestion and making savings of £12billion in travel time.

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Doubling passenger numbers

Government investment and commercial drive has combined to create one of the safest and fastest growing railways in Europe.

Over the last 20 years we have seen a doubling of passenger journeys and we now have over 4.5 million journeys made every day. The number of journeys are expected to double again over the next 25 years.

Busy network

More and more passengers mean some parts of the railway are full during peak periods in the morning and evening. It is vital that we invest and plan long-term for this ever-growing demand.

To do so, we have increased the number of trains running. But the network - some of which dates back to the Victorian era - has to modernise.

The rail industry is working together to deliver over £50billion in a Railway Upgrade Plan.

Continued investment

That’s why we’re embracing new technology and new ways of working – so we all benefit from better services.

The rail industry is working together to deliver over £50billion in a Railway Upgrade Plan: the biggest programme of improvements in rail since the 19th century.

Increased passenger numbers and the resulting increase in revenue, combined with the more efficient running of the railway, means the network now virtually covers its day to day costs. Billions of pounds from taxpayers and increasing amounts from passengers are being spent improving the railway as a result.

We’re investing more than any other European country and we’re exploring how to attract more funding from a range of sources.

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Passengers will benefit from more reliable journeys, more trains and seats, and modernised information and ticket retailing.

We have already transformed stations from Edinburgh to Reading to Birmingham. Many smaller stations have also been improved. We are clearing bottlenecks on the railway to improve punctuality, and building new routes to restore old links and create new ones. And by the end of 2020 over 5,500 new carriages will be delivered, with 170,000 more seats into London.

Where the money comes from

Rail industry income now mainly comes from passengers: in 2015-16, this amounted to £9.93bn (representing over 65% of its total income of £14.7bn), with government funding amounting to £4.77bn (Source: http://dataportal.orr.gov.uk/).

Money from fares goes towards running and maintaining Britain’s railway.  In recent years, increased revenue from the rise in passenger numbers, combined with train companies managing their costs, has resulted in train companies contributing more money to government. This has allowed government to concentrate its funding on capital investment, building a bigger and better network.

Keeping disruption to a minimum

While we upgrade the network and build a new high speed line, some passengers will unfortunately be disrupted.


By the end of 2020, over 5,500 new carriages will be delivered, with 170,000 more seats into London

Train companies and Network Rail are working closely together to minimise disruption while we deliver the Railway Upgrade Plan.  

We always try to undertake work when it disrupts customers least- at night, weekends, or during quiet holiday periods - but sometimes disruption to journeys will be unavoidable.

A better experience for our customers

But it will be worth it because our drive to better connect people and make journeys easier from start to finish will grow our railway, and Britain.