Voting booth

No One Expects A General Election!

Ok, so I lost the sweepstake!  A surefire 10th October General Election, which looked like a no-brainer when I committed my £1, has been overtaken by events with Rishi Sunak naming 4th July as the big day.

This is perhaps a surprise and yet at the same time – not. The election had to be this year, at some point, even if like me, you weren’t expecting it in July.  And so, as we launch into six or so weeks of election campaigning, what can we expect to see, and what will it mean for rail freight?

Well, firstly, you might get some diary time back!  The pre-election period, or as it was once called purdah, means that many meetings with politicians will drop out of diaries as they prorogue parliament and focus on the campaign.  Public bodies are likely to be more sensitive to discussions and events, and although work can still continue there will be increased uncertainty over anything that is developing new policy.  Ministers remain in post until the election, but they are unlikely to attend events or make any public statements, and official visits and such like will be cancelled.

Undoubtedly, as the campaign progresses, we will also learn more about the plans and policies of the different parties.  It’s possible that transport and railways will feature in this, but it seems likely that the economy, cost of living, NHS, energy, and immigration will dominate the headlines.  Even if rail does get a hearing, don’t hold your breath for mention of freight (sorry!).  Yet this period does matter because how an incoming government will boost growth, support industry and deal with critical matters such as decarbonisation and housebuilding will also affect rail freight’s prospects.

Of course, we already know a fair bit about both Conservative and Labour plans for the railways, and with both parties committing to a freight growth target and a strong role for freight in their respective plans there is optimism that we can ‘hit the ground running’ with whoever forms the next government.  And, as new Ministers settle into post over the summer, we will as always, look for opportunities to brief them on all the work our members do and how we can support their future priorities.

By Maggie Simpson OBE, 
RFG Director General.