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Watchdog Says the Government Is Not Meeting Its Goals to Fix the UK Railway System

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There are major obstacles in the way of the UK government’s efforts to improve the nation’s failing railway system, according to a damning study from the National Audit Office (NAO). The watchdog claims that none of the 12 significant benefit benchmarks the government set for the rail industry in 2021 have been met.

The NAO reports that only 75% of the £2.6 billion in savings promised by 2024–2025 are likely to be realized. Great British Railways (GBR) and new operating models and passenger service contracts are still in the works, but they are not expected to be completed by the scheduled date.

The lack of action on necessary legislation is especially concerning, since 21 out of 62 commitments in the government’s white paper call for revisions to the law. The structural improvements have been further delayed by the delay in legislative action.

The head of the NAO, Gareth Davies, chastised the hasty implementation of reforms, highlighting the necessity of improved cooperation and practical preparation both within the Department for Transport (DfT) and throughout the rail industry.

Rail Partners CEO Andy Bagnall backed the calls for a thorough examination of the rail industry, cautioning that the government’s plans run the risk of stagnating in the absence of legislative support.

A DfT spokesman responded by highlighting continuing programs including piloting lower-cost tickets and increasing pay-as-you-go ticketing, reassuring everyone that advancements are being made within the Great British Railways framework.

Separate DfT data, meanwhile, shows that traffic delays in England are getting worse and are already higher than they were before the outbreak. With average speeds falling, the average delay per vehicle per mile increased to 10.5 seconds in 2023 from 9.3 seconds in 2022.

RAC’s head of policy, Simon Williams, expressed alarm about the trend despite stable car numbers and an increase in remote work, attributing the increase in delays to roadworks.

The Department for Transport (DfT) responded by restating its pledge to spend £24 billion on road infrastructure in order to reduce traffic, improve safety, and promote economic expansion.

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