NIC Chair Sir John Armitt calls for a long term perspective on infrastructure funding up to 2050 - yet on rail we don’t even have visibility on projects for the next five years

14 May 2019

As the rail industry gathers at Railtex in Birmingham, RIA, the voice of the UK rail supply community, is concerned that despite calls by the National Infrastructure Commission Chair for a 30-year perspective on infrastructure funding, the Government is not giving visibility on rail enhancement projects for even the next five years. This comes soon after the Government’s own Outsourcing Playbook in February called for all central government departments to publish their commercial pipelines to help suppliers understand the long-term demand for services and prepare their responses to contract opportunities.

The Rail Minister Andrew Jones addresses the RIA Future Focus Conference at Railtex on Wednesday (15 May), where his thoughts on enhancement projects visibility will be keenly anticipated.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “As the rail industry comes together in Birmingham for Railtex, it faces continued uncertainty caused by the Government’s unwillingness to make public its list of projects to enhance the UK railway network. This is especially apposite at a time when the respected Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, has just called for a 30-year infrastructure pipeline – rail cannot even commit to the five years of Control Period 6.

“Whilst RIA welcomes any process which ensures rail enhancement projects can be considered and decisions made on them promptly, the supply sector needs more than a process – it needs projects to plan and compete for, ultimately bringing about the more efficient, more effective, value-for-money and customer-focused railway network we are all trying to build.

“Rail suppliers tell us that there simply is no visibility of upcoming enhancement schemes other than those already known from CP5, with the knock-on effect that they now reduce the levels of investment and employ fewer new workers. Given the Government’s own advice of ensuring transparency for its suppliers, set out in its recently-published Outsourcing Playbook, there really is now an urgent need for the DfT to reveal what rail projects it is planning over the coming five year period.”

Notes to Editors

1. The National Infrastructure Commission’s letter to Government can be found here

2. About the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline: The Government has moved the decision-making process for rail infrastructure improvements, known as enhancements, to a new pipeline approach, where individual projects progress through different stages before coming to market. This is known as the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP). The UK rail network needs enhancements to increase rail capacity, improve journey times, and generate further economic growth. The Government also has goals to decarbonise the rail network, which can only be achieved through enhancement projects. However, the new RNEP has led to reduced visibility of upcoming work for rail businesses:

  • There are no new construction-ready schemes in the new Control Period, CP6, pipeline, other than those already scheduled and over-hanging from the previous Control Period, CP5 – this means there will be a significant hiatus before any new projects come to market;
  • There will only be an announcement about new projects once a project has progressed from one RNEP stage to another, preventing advance planning;
  • There is no time limit for each stage of the RNEP – so a project could take any amount of time to clear the pipeline; and
  • The decision could be taken to cancel a project at any stage in the pipeline.

3. About the Outsourcing Playbook: The Government’s Outsourcing Playbook, published in February 2019, says that there is now a “new expectation that all central government departments will publish their commercial pipelines” and that these changes “will help suppliers to understand the government’s long-term demand for services and prepare themselves to respond to contract opportunities”. The Playbook can be found here.

4. About RIA: The Railway Industry Association (RIA) is the voice of the UK rail supply community. We help to grow a sustainable, high-performing, railway supply industry, and to export UK rail expertise and products. We promote and represent our members’ interests to policy makers, clients and other stakeholders in the UK and overseas. RIA has 280+ companies in membership in a sector that contributes £36 billion in economic growth and £11 billion in tax revenue each year, as well as employing 600,000 people—more than the workforce of Birmingham. It is also a growing industry with the number of rail journeys expected to double over the next 25 years and freight set to grow significantly too. RIA’s membership is active across the whole of railway supply, covering a diverse range of products and services and including both multi-national companies and SMEs (60% by number). RIA works to promote the importance of the rail system to UK plc, to help export UK expertise around the globe and to share best practice and innovation across the industry.

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