With the Spring Budget on the horizon, the Railway Industry Association (RIA) has published its submission that highlights the ‘crunch points’ that could block the levelling up of the rail network.
The Spring Budget is set to take place in less than one month’s time (11 March), and with the rail industry a vital sector for the economy, it is important that it gets the attention it deserves.
In their submission, the RIA argue that if these five ‘crunch points’ aren’t resolved, it will result in a barrier to the government’s investment programme up to 2024.
These points, which will take place between 2020 – 2024, are:-
- ‘Boom and bust’ in renewals;
- Lack of ‘shovel-ready’ enhancements and – despite the support for HS2 – continuing uncertainty around major projects;
- Volatility in the rolling stock market and the possible delays in making decisions whilst recommendations from the Williams Rail Review are implemented;
- The need to increase electrification of the network and promote a wider range of clean traction modes;
- A ramp-up in digitalisation in 2024.
Recommendations are made by the RIA for all of these points, which it is hoped the Chancellor will implement in the Spring Budget.
For digitalisation, the Association has called for the government to bring forward some of the signalling work from Control Period 7 (CP7) so that the industry doesn’t suffer from a steep increase in work in 2024.
Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the RIA, said that whilst the sector has much to be positive about, there are barriers which the government and industry must work together to resolve.
He said: “The coming years will be of critical importance to the new government, but they will also be pivotal for the rail industry. If we get this right, it could be a ‘golden age for rail’.
“There are a number of barriers to the government’s ambition of ‘levelling up’ our rail infrastructure by the next General Election in 2024. Simply, ‘boom and bust’, whether in renewals, enhancements, rolling stock, electrification or digitalisation, will lead to the industry ultimately delivering less efficiently than it could, leading to higher costs for customers – passengers and freight – and taxpayers.
“We urge the Chancellor in his Budget on 11 March, and with the impending publication of the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy, to work with the railway industry to overcome these crunch points, so that we can deliver greater capacity and connectivity on the UK rail network.”