What is the Government intending to make happen on the English and Welsh railways in the next few years?
20 July 2017
A whole raft of documents are out today which set a course for the railways in England and Wales over the next few years. As the Westminster Parliament rises, this is a real ‘end of term’ splurge. In addition, the Scottish Government has published similar documents which I will blog about separately.
The Westminster Government has set out an initial assessment of what it wants from the maintenance and renewal of the railways from 2020-25 – the next ‘control period’. Big projects have sensibly been taken out of this process which they never properly fitted into it anyway. There is much investment already happening in addition whether through franchises or individual projects. Also published are plans to extend the benefits of electrification with new ‘bi-mode’ (combined electric and diesel) trains (this will help Cardiff to Swansea and more northerly routes from St Pancras to Sheffield and so on).
Next the Office of Rail and Road finish their assessment, making sure Network Rail’s plan are efficient and represent value for money.
All this work is the culmination of years of work by Transport Focus and others to make sure this spending all focuses on what passengers want and will notice. Our forthcoming work on rail passenger’s priorities for improvement has been important in this alongside our analysis of 17 years’ worth of National Rail Passenger Survey data.
Our initial reaction to all this news is positive. The emphasis from the Government on maintaining and improving the reliability of existing services is welcome –a key rail passenger priority for improvement.
Passengers will want reassurance that the benefits that might have come with electrification of services are still on track. New bi-mode trains offering more reliable services and more seats without the need for lengthy engineering work will clearly help.
The focus on improving value for money for passengers is good. Much needed investment in the railways is being made by passengers and the taxpayer. Passengers should pay their share of that investment but has the Government got the right balance between taxpayer and passenger funding?
The Government, following the hard hitting Gibb Report, must explain how it is going to ensure they and the industry can deliver better value for money to help keep a lid on future price rises. The soaring costs of the way the rail industry is planned and