One year on: why has the DfT made such limited progress on the Transport Select Committee’s rail industry report recommendations?

30 September 2019

Monday 30 September marks a full year since the Department for Transport responded to the Transport Select Committee’s report on Rail Infrastructure Investment, which made a number of recommendations on smoothing ‘boom and bust’ in rail funding, making enhancement projects public, and developing a consistent electrification pipeline. 
However, it is clear from reviewing those recommendations accepted by the Government that whilst the DfT has made some progress in supporting of cleaner rail technologies and developing a decarbonisation strategy with industry  – essential if the Government is to hit its own commitment to decarbonise rail by 2040 – there has not been enough progress elsewhere. For example:

  • On enhancements, the DfT still has not announced any new upgrade projects since 2017– including Market-Led proposal projects – beyond the schemes hanging over from the last Control Period (CP5);
  • On electrification, the DfT has still not yet worked with industry to produce a report on developing cost effective electrification; and
  • On smoothing ‘boom and bust’ in rail funding, whilst we now have an engagement process, progress was not made in time to smooth out rail funding from the start of Control Period 6 in April 2019, as proposed by the Transport Select Committee.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, said:
“A year on, and it is disappointing that in key areas the Government has still not acted on firm commitments it gave to the Transport Select Committee.
“Whilst we of course welcome the DfT’s support on encouraging decarbonisation and working with RIA and others on reducing ‘boom and bust’ in rail spending, one does have to wonder why it is not delivering elsewhere. Where are the rail enhancements and Market Led Proposal schemes to take forward? The Government’s own Outsourcing Playbook said only this year that all central Government departments should publish their commercial pipelines – why on rail does it not follow its own guidance?
“Why has there been no progress on developing with industry a joint report on cost effective electrification? RIA earlier this year, off its own back, produced a detailed Electrification Cost Challenge report giving an initial view on how electrification can be delivered cost-effectively and efficiently, ultimately to help the Government decarbonise rail by 2040. Why has there been so little progress from Government on helping to further this agenda when 12 months ago it gave a firm commitment to doing so?
“The Committee reported is findings in June last year and the recommendations the Government accepted were made the following September. One year on, and we now need to see much more urgency to deliver on its own commitments, so that the rail industry can build an even better railway for customers, taxpayers and yes, Government itself, in the future.”
Lilian Greenwood MP, Transport Select Committee Chair: “I welcome this progress report from the Railway Industry Association but I share their disappointment with the lack of progress it has identified. The Government made firm commitments to my Committee at the time and it has still not delivered. It’s unsatisfactory that the former Secretary of State and his department have done so little to further this agenda. It’s particularly concerning that the Government has failed to announce any new plans for rail enhancements since 2017, leaving the industry in a state of uncertainty about future investment in the rail network. 
“I share the RIA’s disappointment that the Government has not engaged more enthusiastically with the rail industry to develop cost effective electrification. Our 2017 Report highlighted regional differences in rail infrastructure investment and we called on the Government to ensure regions outside London are able to attract transport investment. We also asked for the three electrification schemes cancelled in July 2017 (Midland Mainline, Great Western Mainline, Great Western Mainline and Lakes Line) to be reclassified as pending.
"I sincerely hope that the new Secretary of State for Transport and his new rail minister, show more willing to engage with the constructive recommendations from my Committee.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Report can be found here
  2. About the Transport Select Committee’s Rail Infrastructure Investment Report: On 13 November 2017, Parliament's Transport Select Committee launched an inquiry into rail infrastructure investment looking at "whether the current system of planning and delivering investment in rail infrastructure is adequate". The inquiry received a wide and varied range of written and oral evidence and published its Rail Infrastructure Investment report in June 2018, with a number of recommendations which the Government responded to in September 2018. The Report recommended a number of changes to the delivery of rail infrastructure, calling for smoothing of renewals workloads, a rolling programme of electrification and visibility of upcoming enhancement projects, amongst others. More information about the Rail Infrastructure Investment inquiry, including the report and the Government's response, can be found at:
  3. 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 290+ 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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