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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Network Rail responds to Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

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Responding to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, Network Rail’s Group Strategy Director Paul Plummer, said:

‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Autumn Statement in the House of Commons.

‘In it, he clearly showed the value the Government believes that transport infrastructure, and rail in particular, brings to the economic wellbeing of the country as a whole.

‘As everyone knows, these are difficult times for the economy. The revised growth forecasts for the next two years were substantially lower than had previously been predicted.

‘At a time of public spending restraint, and economic turmoil in Europe, the Government sees investment in our national infrastructure as investment that can help revive and drive sustainable long-term economic growth.

‘In the statement, which was published alongside updated versions of the National Infrastructure Plan and the Plan for Growth, George Osborne announced £5 billion of investment in infrastructure, of which £1.4 billion was additional investment in rail infrastructure.

‘We have been talking to the Government throughout this process, and headlines of particular relevance to Network Rail include:

  • £290 million to electrify the North Transpennine route from Manchester to Leeds – Network Rail will develop the scheme in more detail and begin early enabling works where these can be delivered efficiently
  • £270 million for a link between Oxford and Bedford – Network Rail will develop the scheme with the existing consortium
  • £390 million of enhancement and renewal works to improve stations and infrastructure, improve resilience against extreme weather and tackle problems more quickly – this includes additional contributions to the NRDF and Access for All funds, plus the acceleration of structures renewals.

‘As we know, rail freight plays a crucial part in our economy. This has been unambiguously recognised by the Government today, with relevant announcements including:

  • Network Rail has been asked to support the development of a network of strategic rail freight interchanges (SRFIs), working with the wider logistics industry to speed up the delivery of SRFI sites to meet business demand; assist with funding; and establish appropriate delivery vehicles for rail infrastructure elements of such proposals
  • The Government will also support Network Rail in investing £55 million in the Strategic Freight Network, including the Ely-Soham doubling scheme, which will remove a bottleneck on the Felixstowe-Nuneaton route, and gauge clearance of additional freight routes in the Midlands between Syston Junction and Stoke.

‘The Chancellor also announced funding for other improvements affecting the railway, including:

  • £5 million to set up a nationwide taskforce to target metal thieves and scrap metal dealers who illegally trade in stolen metal
  • £45 million to extend smart ticketing across London and the South East
  • £80 million to support the Southern Rail franchise’s procurement of 130 new carriages
  • £290 million to limit the increase to regulated rail and Transport for London fares in January 2012 to RPI+1% rather than RPI+3%.

‘This level of spending on rail in the current financial climate is a big commitment and a serious political signal.

‘The Coalition’s preference for capital spending over current spending emphasises that infrastructure is central to the Government’s approach to transforming the economy so it has high levels of both investment and productivity.

‘This is a serious vote of confidence in the railway, and in Network Rail. It shows the value the Government attaches to our industry, and the trust it has in us to deliver this investment. Wherever in the country this investment is going to be delivered is, in a sense, immaterial.

‘It is a vote of confidence in us all, and our ability to plan, build, maintain, renew and operate a railway that already does and can continue to make a substantial contribution to Britain’s economy as a whole. Thank you for the parts you all play in enabling us to do that’.

More details can be found here.

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