The response to the Budget from the rail industry has been mixed, welcoming certain announcements, but expressing concern that key requests from the sector haven’t been delivered.
Chancellor Philip Hammond used the last Budget prior to Brexit committed billions of pounds to upgrade and improve Britain’s infrastructure.
As well as almost £30 billion set out to improve the country’s roads, the government has announced a range of measures that will upgrade and potentially revolutionise the rail industry.
An extra £37 million will support the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail; £20 million will develop a strategic outline business case for East West Rail.
The Transforming Cities Fund is being increased to £2.4 billion, and the government will consider the recommendations of the Independent Affordability Review for Crossrail 2, and consider the project’s case in the spending review.
One of the most prominent voices in the rail industry, the Railway Industry Association (RIA), welcomed the commitment to investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail, East West Rail and the Docklands Light Railway, which Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Association, said “are vital and will unlock economic growth, investment and jobs in different regions of the country.”
However, one of the key asks from the RIA in its Budget submission was a commitment to ending the ‘boom and bust‘ nature of rail funding.
The fact that this wasn’t tackled in the Budget is a source of concern for the RIA.
Mr Caplan added: “The RIA is concerned that the government did not use this opportunity to deliver on the key asks of the rail industry, namely smoothing out ‘boom and bust’ rail funding, providing a visible pipeline of enhancements, ensuring electrification remains on the table when decarbonising the rail network, providing match-funding for rolling stock R&D in Control Period 6 and ensuring the Rail Review does not stall investment in the rail network.
“RIA will continue to campaign on these issues, and calls on the government to engage with the industry to ensure the rail supply community can deliver the best rail network possible.”