RIA responds to the Autumn Statement
Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, delivered his Autumn Statement, which included a number of measures related to transport infrastructure, the railway industry and rail supply businesses.
As part of the statement, the Chancellor confirmed that the core Northern Powerhouse Rail, East West Rail and HS2 to Manchester schemes are all set to go ahead. He also said that capital budgets will increase over the next two years to 2024, and then be maintained in cash terms subsequently.
In response, Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, the national trade body representing UK rail suppliers, said:
“Last month we wrote an open letter to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, setting out how rail is not just essential for UK connectivity and levelling-up, but that it is also an important national industry which plays a major role in boosting economic growth in other sectors too. Given this, we said it is essential to push on with rail projects, even given the current difficult economic circumstances.
“On the face of it, it is therefore welcome that the Chancellor has confirmed in the Autumn Statement that three key rail projects will be built in the coming months and years. This isn’t just the right thing to do when it comes to connectivity, but is also in the long-term economic interests of the country and the efforts to decarbonise, as well.
“Rail suppliers are very clear that clarity and certainty are essential, and so whilst we welcome the Government’s announcement today, we urge the Government to simply deliver what it says it is going to deliver. The industry still needs clarity on the details, including on all elements of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, and sight of the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline, which still hasn’t been updated in over three years.
“While we welcome the Chancellor’s decisions announced today, it is concerning that capital budgets will seemingly not rise as planned after 2024. RIA will of course monitor to see that the rail renewals budget is maintained too, to ensure there is no deterioration in the network. To deliver both transformational major projects for the future and to protect today’s railway, the industry needs the Government to commit to a long-term investment package beyond 2024, including through next week’s publication of the Statement of Funds Available for CP7. This will also ensure best value for money for both rail users and the taxpayer.”