It was a moment of great optimism.
In April 2019, rail workers at the South East Coast mainline station of Wrexham were to be offered the chance to work on a new generation of trains, designed to increase capacity to 1.2 million passengers a day and help to ease overcrowding.
For the last two years, there has been a long-running dispute between rail and road unions over pay and conditions, which saw trains delivered on time and on budget, but it seemed that the new trains would be the answer to a decades-long rail industry crisis.
However, things have changed in just two years.
Over the past few months, the industry has been in a state of shock.
The latest figures from the UK’s National Railways (NRAs) show that passenger numbers on the rail network have been down by nearly 10% over the last three years, to just over 2.6 million.
As well as the decline in passenger numbers, there are concerns that there are fewer drivers to deal with on the railways and there are even more vacancies at the stations.
There are also questions over how the UK will cope with the inevitable ageing of the railway network.
The NRAs’ figures show that train drivers are still employed at a record rate, with just over 5,000 in the workforce.
This is down from nearly 9,000 drivers in the early 1990s.
“The drivers’ union has called for the Government to step in and fund a new hire scheme to help keep people on the job,” said John Rowntree, chairman of the British Railways union.
“But we cannot afford another two years of the same.
There are already signs that the UK has fallen behind on its plans to build a network of new, high-capacity rail lines that will deliver 1.6m passengers a year. “
Our main concern is that we have lost the confidence of the wider workforce that the Government are committed to building a new network.”
There are already signs that the UK has fallen behind on its plans to build a network of new, high-capacity rail lines that will deliver 1.6m passengers a year.
The Government’s first attempt to build the network was due to be launched in 2020, but was put on hold after the death of the former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2015.
There is a growing feeling that there is little appetite for such an ambitious project.
According to the NRAs, there is a “dysfunctional” management structure within the railway industry, with the Government not even meeting its own targets.
“It’s been clear for a long time that the government has been unable to manage the situation,” said Mr Rowntrie.
“A number of factors have contributed to this: the Government has been under pressure from the unions and from passengers to deliver a project that they can sell, that will increase capacity, and that will help reduce overcrowding and improve safety,” he added.
A recent report by the Institute of Directors said that there were “serious structural challenges” with the rail industry, including the “failure to invest in rail to reduce the cost of operating and maintain train services”.
“The Government has failed to properly invest in the rail infrastructure and the rail workforce,” the report said.
“They have failed to invest enough in the roads and roads infrastructure.
The Institute of Railways’ report also highlighted the need for “a clear vision of the long-term future of rail” and the need to ensure “the quality of the rail service is not compromised”. “
While the Government is investing in new rail projects, the infrastructure in place is failing to keep up with the rapid growth of rail services,” it added.
The Institute of Railways’ report also highlighted the need for “a clear vision of the long-term future of rail” and the need to ensure “the quality of the rail service is not compromised”.
The union’s Rowntrees, who were previously involved in the union’s campaigns for a new high-speed rail line between Glasgow and Glasgow, are now calling for a “national plan” to invest more in the railways to provide a “full service” for passengers.
They also want the Government “to ensure that we invest in high-quality and modern rail infrastructure to make sure the rail sector is not left behind”.
Meanwhile, some of the unions’ biggest backers have also called for action.
In September, the British Railway Union (BRU) announced that it would not be renewing its membership, despite the government’s commitment to investing in rail.
“I would like to see a plan in place to ensure we get on with delivering our promises to improve and improve the rail networks and to keep the public safe,” said Rownty.
“There is a need for investment in rail and a plan to get that going.
We have a real problem with management.
We need to have the plan.
We don’t want to see the railway system fall apart, and we don’t need another generation of train drivers and operators.”
Meanwhile, the Association of British Railway Employees (ABRE) is calling for an “urgent meeting of all stakeholders”