Railway industry: Autumn Budget and Spending Review - missed opportunity to unleash potential of rail
The Government has today published the Autumn Budget and Spending Review, setting out its investment plans for the coming three years.
Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: "Whilst it is positive to see confirmation of what looks like an additional £1.5bn of funding for regional transport projects, including in rail, this Budget appears to be a missed opportunity to unleash the potential of the railways in helping the country to build back better.
"There was no indication in the statement of whether long-term day-to-day funding of the railway network will be maintained at least at current levels in the years ahead. We still don’t know what is in the Integrated Rail Plan for the Midlands & the North, we still have uncertainty over major projects, such as HS2 Eastern Leg, Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Rail Hub, and we still await an update of the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline, now more than two years since it was last published.
“With COP26 just around the corner, too, this would have been a good time to set out the Government’s plans to reach a net zero railway, including a rolling programme of electrification and fleet orders of hydrogen and battery trains. These plans would have not just shown UK leadership in decarbonisation on a global stage, but would also significantly boost green jobs and investment, as the UK moves to a cleaner, post-Covid economy.
“There could also have been some clarification on areas like digital signalling, with 60% of traditional signalling needing replacing in the next 15 years. Our rail exporters need to know whether Tradeshow Access Programme budgets will be reinstated or replaced, so that they can play their part in helping the country deliver on Global Britain ambitions.
“It is clear that UK rail can play a leading role in the UK’s economic recovery, but to do this the railway industry really does need greater sight of, and input into, the Government’s investment plans. Visibility of these plans is vital to supporting effective, reliable and clean world-class railway infrastructure and rolling stock in the coming years, boosting the UK economy and its connectivity not just now, at this critical time, but also for the years ahead as we move on from the pandemic.”