The Railway Industry Association’s (RIA) warned of a summer of uncertainty earlier this month unless the UK government released its Transport Decarbonisation Plan, Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP) and Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) for the Midlands & North before its summer recess starting on 23 July.
Despite repeated indications in the first half of the year that all three would be published by the summer, only the Transport Decarbonisation Plan was published before the parliamentary break.
“While it was good to see the Transport Decarbonisation Plan published, which the RIA and its members broadly welcomed, we’re still awaiting an update on the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline and the release of the Integrated Rail Plan.
“Without seeing the details of enhancement schemes around the country, and the Government’s plan for the railways in the north and midlands, rail suppliers of all types and sizes simply will not be able to prepare their teams, resources and business plans over the summer. This lack of certainty and visibility makes it more difficult to build and enhance the UK’s railway network as efficiently and cost-effectively as it otherwise could.”
The RNEP – a list of planned rail upgrades – hasn’t been published for over 20 months, even though it was understood this would happen annually, says Caplan. According to the RIA this delay has meant at least £1.5 billion has been cut from the rail enhancements budget, as the funds are returned to Government if not used.
Similarly, the delay to the IRP has seen work halted on HS2’s Eastern Leg, and Transport for the North has reported that it expects this to delay the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail by a year.
“We sympathise with the Government on the difficult impact the Coronavirus pandemic has had on budgets, yet we’re simply seeking certainty and visibility on what it intends to do. This ‘summer of uncertainty’ will not help rail suppliers as they seek to deliver a world-class railway network to the timescale and budget the Government wants for the years ahead.
“We hope by the time Parliament returns, the Government provides the railway industry with the visibility it needs so that ultimately rail businesses can play their part in supporting the economic growth, jobs and investment the UK requires to bounce back from the Coronavirus pandemic.”
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