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01 Nov 2017

DfT Rolling Stock Perspective Policy paper


On 19 October 2017, the Department for Transport ("DfT") published the latest edition of its "Rolling Stock Perspective", the annual policy paper in which the DfT sets out its perspective on rolling stock and its future aspirations for the railway sector.

In this edition the DfT has set out its guidance to industry participants on the type of rolling stock it wants to see in the future. This policy document would be a beneficial read for rolling stock manufacturers, owners and operators generally as it sets out the DfT's objectives for the rolling stock market, its key priorities for future rolling stock specification, and its rolling stock aspirations by service group. For industry participants wanting to get involved with HS2 in particular, this edition (which HS2 Ltd contributed to) also provides particular insights into this project. The DfT has also addressed recent market developments and specified that there is no "new-train" bias (except in exceptional circumstances) and that going forward both new and refurbished rolling stock will be considered provided they meet the DfT's requirements.

Key themes

Going forward, the DfT is demanding improvements in three key areas:

  1. Technology: The DfT is seeking a technologically-enhanced rolling stock fleet. While the current focus is on improving mobile phone and internet connectivity and providing real-time passenger information on board and at stations, new rolling stock should also be designed such that future developments can be incorporated.
  2. Environmental suitability: The DfT wants a cleaner rail network in which the environmental impact of train travel is reduced. While recognising that diesel trains will continue to be required, train owners and manufacturers will be encouraged to come forward with proposals to reduce both diesel emissions and energy consumption (for example bi-modes and hydrogen-powered trains). Train owners, operators and Network Rail are also invited to take advantage of the variety of green initiatives available and it is noted that future franchises will place more of an emphasis on this.
  3. Accessibility: Rolling stock should be optimised for accessibility and short dwell times and modern standards should be exceeded where possible. New and refurbished rolling stock should specifically account for the needs of passengers with disabilities and others with specific accessibility needs. Key design features highlighted in a recent HS2 report are specifically discussed, as are the new fleet of Stadler Flirt trains to be introduced by Abellio Greater Anglia in 2020 with devices that fill the gap between the train and platform edge.

If you would like to discuss the DfT's guidance or any other aspect of this document, please do let us know. In the meantime, we have set out below a summary of the DfT's stated objectives, priorities and aspirations for future rolling stock and attached the publication. The DfT's press release is available here.  


The DfT's core objectives for the rolling stock market are:

  • Enhancing rolling stock quality: To meet passenger demands, the DfT wants an enhanced quality of rolling stock. This includes ensuring there is sufficient capacity to meet demand, modern accessibility features, reliable and modern on-board facilities (including mobile connectivity and real-time passenger information), modern design and market-suitable interiors.
  • Maintaining a healthy and dynamic market: The DfT wants to maintain a competitive market for both the supply and financing of new and existing rolling stock, where competition drives quality improvements and innovation.
  • Supply chain growth: The DfT wants a successful and diverse supply chain for rolling stock manufacturers and maintainers. Domestic suppliers are expressly referenced, and this is emphasised later in the publication in the context of HS2.
  • Sustainability: The DfT wants the rolling stock market to support the wider sustainability agenda set out in the Rail Sustainable Development Principles, with a particular focus on innovation, skills and the environment. These principles are available here.
  • Value-for-money: Providing value-for-money for the tax payer by minimising whole-industry and whole-life costs. 


The DfT's priorities for future rolling stock specifications are:

  • Accessibility: As mentioned above, the DfT places a renewed emphasis on inclusive designs that meet accessibility requirements.
  • Quality: A greater quality of service for passengers, taking into account the requirements of each franchise.
  • Improved train to internet connectivity: Train facilities need to grow with passengers' rising expectations. Going forward the DfT is focusing on the following key performance indicators: speed of connectivity, service availability (where existing signals are poor or non-existent), minimum data allowances and a continuous improvement in this area throughout the franchise term.
  • Performance: The DfT is looking for improvements in train reliability and the use of digital systems to operate the railway.
  • Sustainability: The DfT wants a reduced environmental impact (including a reduction in carbon emissions and the uptake of other green initiatives).
  • Whole-life value for money: The DfT is inviting rail industry participants to consider and propose innovative ideas as well as ideas that may have no direct commercial benefit but have wider socio-economic benefits to the DfT who are in a position to consider the whole-industry, whole-life cases for such investments.

In addition, the DfT has set out its general output-based aspirations for future rolling stock (broken down into Metropolitan, Rural/Regional, Inter-Urban, InterCity and High-Speed InterCity service groups). While noting that these are high-level aspirations and do not take precedence over individual franchise-specific requirements, the DfT invites industry participants to work towards achieving these (and to take an innovative approach when doing so). Common themes include: accessibility (including being compliant with accessibility regulations), technology (including wireless connectivity and ETCS), accommodation (including toilets and storage), and ambience (including a safe and secure travelling environment). 

Future aspirations

This policy paper concludes by outlining the DfT's vision for the future of the railway. The DfT wants:

  • a rolling stock market that works for passengers, franchisees and the department;
  • accessible trains and stations;
  • cleaner air in and around trains and stations; 
  • British industries leading the world in rail technologies; 
  • high-speed rail travel integrated with existing services; 
  • reliable trains with information on crowding and available train and station facilities provided to customers before they travel; 
  • value for money from franchisees; and 
  • the use of alternative fuels, batteries and cleaner sources of energy.

Industry participants (whether owners, operators, rolling stock manufacturers or maintainers) should keep these future aspirations front and centre, particularly when dealing with the DfT.

If you have any queries in relation to any of the above points or the DfT's policy paper more generally, please let us know.  We would be happy to assist.



Tammy Samuel

Tammy Samuel
Partner and co head of rail

T:  +44 20 7809 2227 M:  +44 7766 991 053 Email Tammy | Vcard Office:  London

Suzanne Tarplee

Suzanne Tarplee
Partner and co head of rail

T:  +44 20 7809 2389 M:  +44 7718 247 220 Email Suzanne | Vcard Office:  London

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