The Railway Industry Association (RIA), the trade body for the UK rail supply community, has responded to news that the rail enhancements budget has reduced by £1 billion. Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, said: “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.”
Britain’s rail infrastructure budget has been cut by £1 billion following the Chancellor’s Spending Review. Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said Network Rail’s funding for enhancements during 2019-2024 is £9.4 billion. This is down nearly 10% on the figure of £10.4 billion which rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road previously calculated was the budget for the five-year period.
Rishi Sunak did not mention the reduction in the Government’s Spending Review, telling the Commons the Government would deliver on its “record investment plans in infrastructure”.
A £1 billion shortfall in funding for Network Rail is likely to have a major impact on forthcoming projects. The Railway Industry Association, a trade body representing rail supply firms, described the decision as “very disappointing”.
Chief executive Darren Caplan said: “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.”
He also urged the Government to reveal what enhancement schemes will be taking place in the coming years “to help rail businesses plan and invest, at what is such a critical time for the UK economy”.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “This revelation puts a question mark over not only some long-planned and much-needed improvements to our transport infrastructure, but to the whole question of rebuilding this country after the pandemic. It’s time for the Government to come clean and tell us what they mean to do.”
Network Rail’s budget for operations, maintenance and renewals is unchanged.