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Industry bodies respond to National Infrastructure Commission annual review

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Rail industry bodies have responded to the National Infrastructure Commission’s annual review, published today (16 May).

The review calls for a new long-term plan for rail with a steady delivery pipeline, and includes new analysis of the railway network in the North and Midlands, following the cancellation of HS2’s northern leg.

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Rail Industry Association (RIA), said: “The National Infrastructure Commission Commission’s findings fire a warning shot to both current and future governments about the need for more investment in rail capacity in the decades ahead.

“The report clearly says that without investment in transport infrastructure like rail, growth in cities around the country – particularly the North and Midlands – would be constrained, and it cites the recent RIA-commissioned Steer report forecasting that rail passenger demand will grow between 37% and 97% to 2050, depending on which policies are adopted in the coming years. RIA has consistently warned that the absence of a strategy for north-south rail capacity and regional connectivity risks holding the country back, whether the economy, connectivity, local growth, or the UK’s ability to deliver Net Zero.

“The Commission rightly calls out the lack of a coherent long-term plan for rail along with a steady and delivery pipeline. Its analysis shows how a visible long-term pipeline of rail renewals and enhancements is crucial for local authorities and the supply chain, to be able to plan and attract private investment. The report also says the Government had not met its objective to make decisions and stick to them, with changes such as cancelling the later stages of HS2 exacerbating uncertainty for both businesses and investors. RIA has been regularly calling for a clear long-term strategy and full pipeline information, and we urge policy makers both now and in the future to heed this call, make decisions and stick to them.”

A spokesperson for the High Speed Rail Group commented: “The High Speed Rail Group (HSRG) welcomes the NIC’s latest Infrastructure Progress Review, which explicitly calls for a new long-term plan for rail to address capacity and connectivity issues on the network following the cancellation of HS2’s northern leg.

“Government’s failure to implement plans for HS2 that have carefully negotiated the Parliamentary approval process is inexplicable. It will hold the country back economically, hinder growth and widen regional inequality.

“A coherent long term plan for rail investment, including new lines where they offer best value for money, is needed to address capacity issues that arise both on main line railways, and on the motorways that parallel them. The direction of travel in policy terms must be to attract more car users and more road freight off our motorways and on to better, more reliable, rail services.

“HSRG supports this NIC report in its view that the need for a comprehensive plan to fix our railway connections is pressing.”

Image credit: iStockphoto.com

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