THE GOVERNMENT’S Vision for Rail confirms plans to prioritise essential renewals during Control Period 6 (2019-24) but also signals support for expansion of capacity and the potential for new routes.
The Statement of Funds Available (SoFA), released in October, confirmed that Government expects around £47.9 billion to be spent on the railway during CP6. The strategy document confirms the need to ‘prioritise and invest in essential work on the existing infrastructure’ to improve the reliability of services.
In the autumn budget the previous week, Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed an additional £200 million of renewals spending for Network Rail would be provided in Control Period 5 (2014-19).
The Railway Industry Association has been leading calls for £500 million of spending to be brought forward from CP6 to smooth the pipeline of work for the supply industry over the transition between the Control Periods, although in fact the £200 million has been reallocated from elsewhere in the CP5 budget rather than brought forward.
While welcoming the move, RIA chief executive Darren Caplan highlighted disappointment that the full amount was not brought forward from CP6.
BEECHING IN REVERSE
The Vision for Rail also highlights a need to deliver existing enhancements, work to develop the next generation of improvements and reverse ‘the historic contraction of the rail network’. This will focus on expansion of commuter capacity, new routes to provide strategic links or unlock significant housing or economic development, and schemes to meet the biggest capacity challenges over the coming decades. The East West Rail line between Oxford and Cambridge is noted as one example of such a scheme already being progressed (see story opposite).
The document also highlights the opportunities offered by local rail schemes. Examples include MetroWest in Bristol (including reopening of the lines to Portishead and Henbury, p15); Exeter to Okehampton and Bere Alston to Tavistock in Devon; the Ashington – Blyth – Tyne line in Northumberland; and opportunities around Birmingham being considered by Transport for the West Midlands. It also references plans for four new stations in West Yorkshire, at Elland, Thorpe Park, White Rose and Leeds Bradford International Airport Parkway.
The strategy says these schemes ‘will need to demonstrate a strong business case where they are seeking any available Government funding’.
The Government says it is ‘developing guidance for investors and developers to ensure that the process for taking forward proposals and engaging with Government is as clear and transparent as possible’.
It says it will introduce ‘a new approach to making investment decisions with clearer decision points and a greater focus on the desired outcomes of investment’. A new Rebalancing Toolkit is to be developed, which will form a new assessment standard for Government decisions, with transport investment programmes to be judged ‘in part on how they contribute towards creating a more balanced economy, as part of the overall assessment of their strategic case’.