The Railway Industry Association (RIA) has today written to the Transport Secretary, the Rt Hon Mark Harper MP, asking for urgent clarity on rail enhancement schemes.
RIA’s letter comes on the 4th Anniversary – 21 October 2019 – since the Government last published an update of the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP), which sets out when rail projects have the green light to proceed. The Government has repeatedly committed to annual updates but has not yet published any.
The letter also follows the Government’s recent publication of ‘Network North’ – new proposals for transport infrastructure, following the scrapping of HS2 Phase 2 from Birmingham to Manchester – which the Prime Minister has described as ‘illustrative’. The five yearly National Infrastructure Assessment, published this week concludes that “it is not yet clear what the exact scope and delivery schedule is for the proposed new rail schemes”.
Darren Caplan, RIA Chief Executive, said:
“The Government needs to take urgent action this autumn to provide some stability to the rail supply chain, to avoid suppliers having to lay off staff or shift work overseas in the months ahead. That is why we have written an open letter to Transport Secretary Mark Harper this week, on the fourth anniversary since the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline was last published, despite assurances an update would be published annually.
“Whilst we appreciate the Government is seeking to promote local and regional rail projects to replace the now scrapped HS2 Phase 2 Birmingham to Manchester scheme, right now some of them are said to be “illustrative” only and there is simply no clarity about what work is actually going to go ahead and when.
“A number of rail companies have recently told us that they are unable to develop their business plans because of this uncertainty over which rail schemes will be proceeding. Failing to give these businesses clear and consistent commitments can only increase industry costs and deliverability risks, which is ultimately bad for the taxpayer and for rail customers, both passengers and freight.
“There is of course a solution to this. A number of the rail schemes within Network North – which the National Infrastructure Assessment says requires clarification – could be brought forward quickly if the Government chooses to firm them up. It could also now announce the timing of delivering the RNEP projects. And an update on its thinking on the timing of delivering the Integrated Rail Plan for the North & Midlands would also be helpful to rail businesses.
“None of this requires extra funding, as we are told all the work is provided for from existing budgets. So it is simply a matter of communicating with the rail supply sector – we urge the Government to announce which rail projects it wishes to progress with as soon as possible.”