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Transport Committee investigates rail infrastructure funding

Patrick McDonnell
14 November 2017
The Government has set aside £47.9bn for Control Period 6, which covers April 2019 to March 2024
The Government has set aside £47.9bn for Control Period 6, which covers April 2019 to March 2024

 

The House of Commons Transport Committee has launched an inquiry looking into whether or not the current system of planning and delivering investment in rail infrastructure.

Currently, most rail infrastructure funding in Britain is channeled through Network Rail. The Government funds Network Rail in five-year cycles known as ‘control periods’, a system designed to enable it to set strategic objectives for the railways, providing direction in terms of what work is expected and how much money is available.

The process for deciding the funding and outputs of Network Rail for Control Period 6 (CP6), which covers April 2019 to March 2024, has begun and will finalised next year. 

In October, the Government announced that £47.9bn has been set-aside for CP6. Some £34.7bn will come from Government grant, supplemented by track access charges and commercial income.

The committee flags up how ambitious plans, including several electrification schemes, have recently been scaled back while cost overruns from CP5 mean £3.4bn of renewals are likely to be postponed into CP6. The MPs are concerned that peaks and troughs in work could put additional pressures on rail supply chain companies, risking completion of projects on time and on budget. 

The committee also notes that current private sector investment in the rail industry is concentrated on rolling stock with a relatively small proportion spent on rail infrastructure.

Transport committee chair Lilian Greenwood MP said: “The Government has started work on funding and spending plans for Network Rail in Control Period 6. This should address the failures of the current control period: scrapped electrification and enhancement projects; uncompleted work tipping from the current control period to the next; and deep disquiet about differences in regional funding.

“We will consider whether the mechanism of control periods is the best way to manage investment in rail infrastructure. At a time when UK passengers have seen ticket prices rising far faster than their wages, the committee will examine whether the current system of planning and delivering investment is giving us the infrastructure we need if we are to have a modern 21st Century railway.” 

The committee says it wants to understand whether the current system of planning and delivering investment in rail infrastructure is adequate.

The MPs are particularly interested in submissions addressing:

  • The impact of postponing renewals from the current control period into the next and the implications of the Secretary of State’s decision to remove enhancements from the control period process
  • The adequacy of the control period process in enabling the delivery of long-term rail infrastructure objectives
  • Whether Network Rail’s long-term planning process is effective in providing the industry with strategic direction beyond the five-year control period
  • The reasons for the apparent regional disparity in rail infrastructure funding, and the mechanisms by which regions may have a greater input into planning and delivering rail infrastructure, including through route devolution within Network Rail and entitles such as Transport for the North and Midlands Connect
  • The possible implications of the Government’s policy of increasing the share of private sector financing in rail infrastructure
  • Whether steps taken by the Government and Network Rail to increase private sector investment for rail infrastructure are adequate and how continuing barriers to private sector investment might be addressed.

The committee will receive written submissions up to 18 December.

Evidence can be submitted through a web portal.

 

 
 
 
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