With Parliament rising for the summer, we still await announcements on rail reform and the RNEP
On the day that Parliament rises for the summer recess – Thursday 20 July – and with still no announcements having yet been made on Great British Railways rail reform or the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline, the Railway Industry Association (RIA) has called for Government to reveal its thinking on both.
On rail reform, earlier this year RIA and 70 leading rail supply organisation leaders sent an open letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, copied to DfT Ministers, urging progress on rail reform legislation. No response has been received. Unless there is progress, or an announcement that this is not going ahead, there will be a hiatus both in terms of political decision-making and railway industry work. Furthermore, unless plans on how track and train are to be brought closer together and operators incentivised to increase ticket sales, rail patronage and revenues will not grow as quickly as they could.
Similarly, we are getting towards four years since the RNEP was last announced, despite a commitment to announce an update on rail projects annually. In 2019 the RNEP was billed as a ‘new approach for rail proposals’, which would provide certainty and transparency through the annual publication of a pipeline of enhancement projects.
RIA Chief Executive Darren Caplan said: “With Parliament rising for the summer, the Railway Industry Association and our members once again ask for certainty on UK rail policy and enhancement projects. We urge Ministers related to rail and its funding to have a good break over the summer, and then come back in the autumn recharged and ready to make clear pronouncements on how it intends to take both forward.
“It is of course disappointing that we get to the end of another parliamentary session with no clearer idea about the future structure of UK rail, or the timescale within which decisions will be made and plans announced. The communications vacuum is a worry – if there is not to be progress on Great British Railways and rail reform, then we urge the Government to announce this so that the railway industry – which represent thousands of jobs, and billions of pounds of GVA and Treasury tax revenue – can plan with certainty that the current set-up will continue for the medium-term. Uncertainty merely fuels fears of hiatus for rail businesses.
“Similarly, we go in to another summer not knowing progress on the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline. It is coming up to four years since the last announcement on these rail projects, and we in the rail supply community are regularly told there will be a progress update ‘soon’. We once again respectfully ask the Government to announce its thinking on this as soon as possible, so rail businesses can plan and resource appropriately for the months and years ahead.”