On 2 February the Government released The Levelling Up White Paper, which sets out how it intends to spread opportunity more equally across the UK. The White Paper sets out 12 missions to level up the UK, with the Integrated Rail Plan mentioned twice.

Here is how the rail industry responded.

Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, Darren Caplan said:

“The Levelling Up White Paper published today is welcome, and it is particularly positive to see transport connectivity and rail services recognised within it. We know that rail is a vital catalyst for economic growth, generating £2.50 from every £1 of spend, and investment in our railway touches all corners of the country, supporting cities, towns and communities across the UK. We urge the Government to continue investing in rail as passenger numbers return post-Coronavirus and to support the decarbonisation, digitalisation and expansion of the railway network, ultimately ensuring the rail industry is best able to support economic growth, investment and jobs for the future.”

Director General of the Rail Delivery Group, Andy Bagnall said: 

“The railway is crucial to successfully ‘levelling up’ the country. It has the power to boost local economies, connect people to jobs and transport goods to businesses. To get reform right and deliver what passengers want, it’s essential that the new passenger service contracts enable Great British Railways to guide, rather than control, the industry and to listen to and empower operators and the regions.”

A spokesperson for FirstGroup said:

“We welcome the recognition in today’s Levelling Up white paper for the central role public transport plays in delivering economic growth. The Government’s vision is best delivered through the expertise and innovation of private transport operators. The vital services and connections we provide help to create vibrant and sustainable communities. We look forward to seeing further detail on the plans outlined in the paper, and ensuring the industry continues to progress beyond the pandemic and play its part in levelling up across the UK.”

Chair of the Urban Transport Group, and Chief Executive at West Midlands Combined Authority, Laura Shoaf said:

Devolving more powers over transport is the right approach as Mayors, leaders and local transport authorities are far better placed to make the right calls than command and control from Whitehall. However, we need to see this translated into action, including on the devolution of more powers over local rail networks, over bus funding, as well as less micro-management of our capital investment programmes.

“We welcome the investment that the Government is making in the future of bus services which will bring real benefits in some places. However, those same bus networks face a more immediate challenge which is the ending of additional Covid revenue support from 1st April. This is one reason why we are already seeing service cuts and inevitably there will be more to come without a sustainable, longer term revenue support package for the bus.”

Director of Policy at the Institution of Civil Engineers, Chris Richards said:

“Today’s Levelling Up White Paper is a first step with some positive aspects such as an independent advisory council, continuation of long-term deals and a clear role for infrastructure carried over from the abandoned industrial strategy.

“However real substantial change will need consultation with those on the ground, on what the long-term challenges are so that sectors such as infrastructure know how to help. Embedding a true mandate, through consultation, from the public will be key to rising above ever-shifting political priorities and tackling some of the UK’s long-term issues.

“While there is still significant work to be done, the promise of transforming the levelling up missions into legislation is a step in the right direction.”