Updated: Feb 10, 2021
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris has confirmed, in a written answer to a question from Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Jim McMahon, that Network Rail’s enhancements budget for the current control period (CP6) has been cut from £10.4 billion to £9.4 billion. In a written question to Secretary of State Grant Shapps, Jim McMahon asked: “With reference to the Spending Review 2020, what revised estimate he has for the (a) total £10.4 billion rail enhancements budget and (b) total £30.9billion operations, maintenance and renewals budget within Network Rail’s Control Period 6.”
Answering on the Transport Secretary’s behalf, Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Network Rail’s operations, maintenance and renewals budgets have not been changed as a result of Spending Review 2020 and workbanks will continue to be based on the five-year regulatory funding settlement for 2019-2024. The Spending Review settlement means that the comparable figure for the enhancements budget over the same period would now be £9.4bn.”
He then went on to talk about budgets for rail services, which hadn’t formed part of Jim McMahon’s question, and didn’t answer the second part of the question at all.
Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association, was concerned about the Rail Minister’s reply: “Recent confirmation, following the Spending Review, that rail enhancements investment will reduce by more than £1 billion over the current five year funding period, is very disappointing. Rail enhancements are essential in ensuring our rail network is fit for the future, improving reliability, connectivity, customer experience and helping to reduce carbon emissions. Taking our foot off the pedal now on rail investment will not help for when passengers return following the Coronavirus pandemic.
“The rail industry still doesn’t have sight of what rail enhancement projects are coming up – we were told earlier this year that there are more than 80 projects in the Government’s Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline, yet with the news today that there is over £1 billion less in the funding pot, it is unclear what schemes will be going ahead and what will not be. In line with RIA’s Speed Up Rail Enhancements, SURE, campaign, we strongly urge the Government to publish this list of rail enhancement projects as soon as possible, to help rail businesses plan and invest, at what is such a critical time for the UK economy.”
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “The funds available for CP6 enhancements have been reduced. Whether we’d have been able to bring projects with strong business cases forward to be able to use those funds is obviously uncertain at this point in the control period. We’re working through the detail of this news with our regional stakeholders and the DfT to reassess our portfolio of projects an prioritise. This will take a number of months.”