£1bn rail enhancements cut 'shoots us in the foot'

Ministers have admitted that the cash available for enhancements to the rail network during the current five-year period will be £1bn lower than promised.

Following last week’s Spending Review, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Jim McMahon, used a written parliamentary question to ask ministers for their revised estimate of the total (previously £10.4bn) rail enhancements budget and the total £30.9bn operations, maintenance and renewals budget within Network Rail’s Control Period 6 (CP6), which runs from April 2019 to March 2019.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said the operations, maintenance and renewals budgets have not changed but conceded: ‘The Spending Review settlement means that the comparable figure for the enhancements budget over the same period would now be £9.4bn.’

Network Rail’s financial settlement for CP6 includes a cash envelope for enhancements, but with ministers approving schemes on a case-by-case basis.

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Network Rail's CP6 delivery plan originally included £10.4bn for enhancements

Paul Tuohy, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: ‘Considering that the PM has just announced a new target for reducing carbon by 2030, cutting investment in rail infrastructure really is shooting ourselves in the foot.

‘Transport emits more carbon than any other sector; tackling this will require action on all fronts, including electrifying rail and connecting more communities to the network. Investing in rail can also address social exclusion, create green jobs and help the economy to recover.’

Mr Heaton-Harris added that the Spending Review Settlement ‘includes record investment in strategic roads and rail’.

However, as Transport Network’s sister publication, Highways, has reported, minsters appear to have provided £2bn extra funding for the strategic road network from 2020-25 at the expense of upgrades to the local road network.

 

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