A 21st century BRB?
Labour vows to create a 21st century equivalent of the British Railways Board (BRB) for long-term network planning.
SHADOW Secretary of State for Transport Andy McDonald has pledged to create a 21st century equivalent of the British Rail Board (BRB) to provide long-term strategic planning for the rail network should Labour win the next election.
McDonald also repeated his party’s intention to run the national system centrally from Whitehall by progressively taking franchises into public ownership as they expire.
These commitments were made in his address to the Railway Industry Association (RIA) annual conference on October 20.
He argued that these measures would help combat inefficiency, wasteful spending and fragmentation in the industry, while the supply chain would also benefit from a departure from Network Rail’s current allocation of funding from government in fixed five-year control periods.
He said that by extending control periods to seven years and by switching to a ‘rolling’ programme of investment that is reviewed on a more regular basis, the current pattern of ‘feast and famine’ funding would be ended because spending is typically stronger at the start of control periods before dropping-off sharply towards the end.
He added that such a move would also give the supply chain greater transparency of NR’s renewals workbank, while avoiding up to 30% of added costs that are accrued by companies expanding to meet high demand and then contracting when work dries up, before having to begin the cycle again.
McDonald also said that a Labour government would embark on an extensive programme of electrification to increase capacity and reduce operating costs and emissions, and would fund a ‘Crossrail for the North’ through a ten-year National Transformation Fund.
“The Conservative Party’s policy can be described as promises, postponement and cancellation,” he said. “They cannot know what
damage its feast and famine approach is causing the railway by destroying capacity and being deeply inefficient. In our plan, we would do two things very differently. Firstly, we are committed to a major expenditure programme in rail and, secondly, we will implement funding in a steady and consistent way to provide industry with a multi-year view.
“We would move to extended control periods and give at least two years’ visibility, but this should sit within a much longer strategic view of railway planning. If we can bring this to bear then it has to be good for growth, jobs and exports and of huge benefit to all areas of the economy.”
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Andy McDonald.