UK – On 30 April 2018 the Minister of State for Transport (rail), Jo Johnson MP, appeared before House of Commons Transport Select Committee for the final evidence session of its inquiry into infrastructure investment in the rail network, which has previously also questioned chief executives in train companies, the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail and Road. The session considered issues which had arisen during Control Period 5, including the cancellation of electrification schemes in some parts of the UK.
After the session the Rail Industry Association (RIA) responded to Johnson’s statements on both funding and electrification.
Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA) highlighted the long-standing issue of ‘boom and bust’ generated by the current structure of Control Periods:
“It has become clear through the inquiry that the biggest issue facing the rail industry is the funding system and the need to eradicate ‘boom and bust’ in railway investment.
“The Railway Industry Association and our members have made it clear that failure to stop the ramping up and then drop-off of investment makes the cost of renewing the railways up to 30% more expensive at the same time as fostering a culture where teams working on the system disband and SMEs go out of business, due to the stop-start nature of the work.
“This is not a new issue – ‘boom and bust’ has been a feature of the rail funding system since the 1990s. We have always said we support five-year Control Periods, but we do ask the Committee to recommend that the key players in rail – the DfT, Network Rail, the Office of Rail & Road, and the supply sector – get together to find a way to stop ‘boom and bust’, to help us all deliver a world class railway we can all be proud of in the future.”
David Clarke, Technical Director of the Railway Industry Association (RIA) reiterated the Association’s position that the excessive cost of previously planned electrification schemes was not inevitable and an economic, environmentally friendly solution was possible:
“Whilst advances in technology can help the industry move towards a zero carbon railway, it remains RIA’s position that electrification is still the optimal technical solution for the intensively used parts of the rail network. The problem has been that some recent programmes have been costing far more than they should, and this led RIA to launch its cross-industry Electrification Cost Challenge, which shows that electrification can be delivered at an affordable cost.”
“RIA maintains that further electrification is an important part of any decarbonisation strategy for the railways, and the Government must keep an open mind on this issue if it wants to deliver a sustainable and affordable transport system for the future.”
The initial deadline for submitting evidence to this inquiry passed in December 2017 but the Committee is continuing to accept written statements by interested parties until further notice.
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