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The important role of private investment in UK transport

09 August 2022

Angel Trains’ CEO discusses transport investment with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure.

The important role of private investment in UK transport
Asset management company Angel Trains says that its private investment in the rail sector frees up government funding for other public services. Image credit: Shutterstock.

I was delighted to provide a briefing to the Infrastructure APPG in July on the importance of private sector investment to the UK’s transport infrastructure.

Angel Trains is one of Britain’s leading train asset management companies, which provides large-scale investment in the rail industry.

Since 1994, Angel Trains has invested over £5 billion in new rolling stock and refurbishment programmes, supporting thousands of skilled jobs in the UK rail supply chain.

Public-private harmony

Over the course of the past 20 years, the UK has developed a strong environment for rail investment to flourish.

It has generated a stable base from which private capital can deliver improvements and innovations across the network.

Not only does this environment free up the government’s capacity, but it also provides capital that stays off the government’s balance sheet.

This allows for important public investment to be channelled elsewhere.

It must be said that public or private sector investment should not be viewed through the prism of one or the other being ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Like in many other industries, rail investment needs a harmony between the two and a common understanding of which kind of investment is best placed to make the crucial interventions needed to improve the country.

In our experience, these interventions are best made when the government provides the private sector with long-term direction for investment.

This allows innovation to flourish – whether it be low-carbon rail solutions or upgrades in passenger technology.

Injecting capital into rail

With its strong track record, the rail sector provides a compelling case study for the benefits of private investment.

Although it will always need to compete with global investment pressures, the stability of the UK’s market has allowed the private sector to innovate and deliver in conjunction with the direction of travel set by government.

Angel Trains, amongst other private sector actors, has been able to bank on this vision to make significant investments across the UK – serving thousands of passengers.

A prime example of this is the money we’ve provided for new fleets.

For example, we’ve invested almost £1 billion for a fleet of 663 new Derby-built Aventra trains being introduced into the Greater Anglia service.

Our investment in fleets such as this frees up government finance to be spent on crucial public projects, such as NHS infrastructure.

The introduction of these vehicles has boosted customer satisfaction, brought passengers back to the railway and encouraged modal shift away from high-polluting and private vehicles.

This is one of the most effective transport measures the UK can take to protect the environment.

Upgrading critical assets

The clear, macro strategy has also enabled Angel Trains to make its most recent investment in Readypower Group.

Readypower is a specialist civil engineering firm providing maintenance across the rail network, supporting critical rail assets and developing sustainable low-carbon rail solutions.

Angel Trains chose to invest in Readypower as we saw an element of the market in need of a financial boost and felt compelled to support the UK’s wider asset base to improve outcomes for passengers and freight alike.

Keeping investment coming

If the work of Angel Trains tells any story, it’s that clear, long-term strategic direction provides the backbone for investment.

If we invest in the rail sector, we can support the UK’s low-carbon emissions, while unlocking the UK’s economy and encouraging modal shift.

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  • Malcolm Brown, CEO at Angel Trains