UK rail transport: a review of demand and supply

Over recent years the UK railway industry has seen unprecedented growth in the number of passengers and the amount of freight carried. Expansion in network capacity, however, has not kept pace with this growth. This has led to significant overcrowding and little or no capacity left to run more trains within existing stock or track provision. The UK government however has stated that as part of achieving ‘best value' it wants to further increase rail traffic, and has recently set out a strategy to optimise this. This paper reviews the issues associated with the growth in passengers, the demand placed on the network and the policy developed to accommodate and manage it. It identifies the capacity constraints and options identified for capacity enhancement. The paper concludes that while privatisation has made coherent decision-making difficult there is significant experience to be gained in the development of policy and route utilisation strategies.