Nine-hundred days have passed, today, 8 April, since the Government last published an update to the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP) – a delay which the Railway Industry Association says is leaving the industry ‘in the dark’ about forthcoming upgrades.
The RNEP is a list of planned upgrades on the rail network due to take place between 2019 and 2024, but it has not been updated since 2019 – despite the Government committing to publishing updates every year.
In 2019, it included schemes such as Cumbrian freight capacity upgrades and the Heathrow Western Rail Link, but RIA notes that the status of many of these projects is uncertain.
The trade body says the pipeline ‘will likely determine’ when projects set out in the Integrated Rail Plan take place. These could include Midland main line electrification, the TransPennine Route Upgrade and signalling upgrades on the East Coast main line.
RIA Chief Executive Darren Caplan said: ‘The continued delay to the RNEP, now two and half years since the last update, leaves businesses unaware of upcoming rail investment plans, impacting their ability to invest and support economic growth around the country. RIA’s Enhancements Clock now shows we are passing the 900-day milestone.
‘We regularly hear from rail suppliers that they struggle to plan for the years ahead with such little certainty about which projects will be given the green light in the coming years. In what is a complex and highly skilled sector like rail, this uncertainty hamstrings businesses’ ability to deliver cost-effectively, and risks adding costs and delays to key upgrades.
‘Yet, if RNEP was published, the sector could deliver even greater benefits to passengers and the UK economy, supporting investment, hiring new graduates and apprentices, enabling innovation and delivering greater value for the taxpayer. This is not a call for more funding, rail businesses simply need to know what the Government plans to invest in.
‘With only around 100 days until Parliamentary recess, we urge the Government to publish this list before we reach 1,000 days without an RNEP update. By doing so, they really can help support greater economic growth, investment and jobs across the UK.’