Rail (UK)

Spend­ing Re­view

- Paul Stephen Fea­tures Edi­tor paul.stephen@bauer­me­dia.co.uk @paul_rail Business · Finance · UK News · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · United Kingdom · England · London · Arbeidersparty · Campaign for Better Transport · Railway Industry Association · Cambridge Union Society · Anneliese Dodds · Powerhouse · Barry White

Rail in­fra­struc­ture projects set to play a key part in Gov­ern­ment’s lev­el­ling up agenda and post-COVID re­cov­ery…

CHAN­CEL­LOR Rishi Su­nak has pledged to make a “once in a gen­er­a­tion in­vest­ment” in in­fra­struc­ture as part of the na­tional eco­nomic re­cov­ery from the Coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

The plans, which were an­nounced as part of the Com­pre­hen­sive Spend­ing Re­view on Novem­ber 25, in­clude £100 bil­lion worth of cap­i­tal spend­ing next year (£27bn more than has been spent this year) on build­ing projects for schools, hos­pi­tals, hous­ing and trans­port.

A £4bn Lev­el­ling Up fund has also been launched for lo­cal projects such as road by­passes and rail­way sta­tion up­grades, as the Chan­cel­lor looks to pro­tect jobs and grow an econ­omy that is pre­dicted to con­tract by 11.3% this year and not re­turn to its prepan­demic size un­til late 2022.

The spend­ing re­view was ac­com­pa­nied by the pub­li­ca­tion of the Na­tional In­fra­struc­ture Strat­egy, which had orig­i­nally been ex­pected in March be­fore be­ing de­layed by the out­break of the pan­demic (see story, be­low).

De­signed to boost growth across the UK, sup­port pri­vate in­vest­ment and help the coun­try meet its 2050 cli­mate goals, more de­tails are ex­pected in next year’s spend­ing re­view once key doc­u­ments have been pub­lished - in­clud­ing the Union Con­nec­tiv­ity Re­view and the In­te­grated Rail Plan.

A new UK in­fra­struc­ture bank is to be cre­ated and head­quar­tered in the north of Eng­land, to work with the pri­vate sec­tor to help fi­nance ma­jor new in­vest­ment projects.

Su­nak also an­nounced an over­haul of the Trea­sury’s ‘Green Book’ process and the way it as­sesses in­vest­ment pro­grammes, so that de­ci­sion-mak­ing is less dom­i­nated by Ben­e­fit: Cost Ra­tios that typ­i­cally favour projects in Lon­don and the South East (see panel).

“Our health emer­gency is not yet over and the eco­nomic emer­gency has only just be­gun, so our im­me­di­ate pri­or­ity is to pro­tect

peo­ple’s lives and liveli­hoods,” he said.

“But to­day’s Spend­ing Re­view de­liv­ers a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture - cre­at­ing jobs, grow­ing the econ­omy, and in­creas­ing pride in the places peo­ple call home.”

He added that the Gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing would also “in­vest in the greener fu­ture we promised and de­liver the Prime Min­is­ter’s ten­point plan for a green in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion” (see panel).

Labour’s Shadow Chan­cel­lor An­neliese Dodds hit back at

Su­nak and said that his fail­ure to green­light ma­jor projects such as North­ern Pow­er­house Rail showed that gov­ern­ment claims of lev­el­ling up the coun­try were “not sup­ported by the ev­i­dence”.

She said that the paucity of firm com­mit­ments made the chances of the UK reach­ing net zero car­bon by 2050 “less likely” rather than more.

Cam­paign for Better Trans­port wel­comed the an­nounce­ment of a Lev­el­ling Up fund and changes to the ‘Green Book’, but said it was dis­ap­pointed that gov­ern­ment had failed to pledge a fares freeze in the New Year, as with­out it “peo­ple will sim­ply stay home”.

The Rail­way In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion also wel­comed the Lev­el­ling Up fund, the Na­tional In­fra­struc­ture

Strat­egy and new in­fra­struc­ture bank, but ex­pressed con­cern at the lack of up­dates on spe­cific rail schemes.

RIA Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Dar­ren Ca­plan added: “We have been wait­ing over a year to hear news about what en­hance­ment projects are to be taken for­ward and when. De­spite sup­pos­edly 80 schemes on this list, we are still no nearer know­ing which ones are to be pro­gressed.”

Trans­port for the North Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Barry White de­scribed the Chan­cel­lor’s an­nounce­ments as “promis­ing” but pointed to the amount of de­tail which is still to come in the yet-to-be pub­lished In­te­grated Rail Plan, which he “awaits with in­ter­est”.

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