Labour pledges end to ‘boom and bust’ fund­ing cy­cle for Net­work Rail

Rail (UK) - - News -

A Labour Gov­ern­ment would end the ‘boom and bust’ cy­cle of rail in­dus­try fund­ing by ex­tend­ing the du­ra­tion of con­trol pe­ri­ods, Shadow Trans­port Sec­re­tary Andy McDon­ald has an­nounced.

The five-year con­trol pe­ri­ods cur­rently used by the De­part­ment for Trans­port to al­lo­cate fund­ing to Net­work Rail would in­stead last for seven years, with plan­ning for the next pe­riod tak­ing place up to two years be­fore the end of the ex­ist­ing one.

Speak­ing at the UKRRIN (UK Rail and Re­search In­no­va­tion Net­work) an­nual con­fer­ence in Lon­don on Novem­ber 13, McDon­ald said the move would help tackle an un­even cy­cle of over­spend­ing on re­newals by NR at the be­gin­ning of con­trol pe­ri­ods, fol­lowed by un­der­spend­ing to­wards the end as funds be­come de­pleted.

Labour’s pol­icy an­nounce­ment fol­lows con­sis­tent warn­ings from the Rail­way In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion that fluc­tu­at­ing work­load pro­files in CP5 (which runs un­til March 2019) has dam­aged con­fi­dence in the sup­ply chain to sus­tain lev­els of in­vest­ment and re­cruit­ment, and in­creased costs by up to 30%.

“The in­vest­ment pipe­line is a high pri­or­ity, which is why Labour would ex­tend con­trol pe­ri­ods to seven years,” said McDon­ald.

“These will be rolling pe­ri­ods which are re­set two to three years be­fore they end, in or­der to give more cer­tainty.”

He added that hav­ing a strong sup­ply chain was in­te­gral to Labour’s re­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion plans, which would be lim­ited to bring­ing only pas­sen­ger op­er­a­tions into pub­lic own­er­ship. Hav­ing a joined-up rail­way was the prime ob­jec­tive in or­der to avoid fail­ures such as the timetable melt­down that se­verely af­fected North­ern and Thames­link net­works in May.

Strate­gic plan­ning would be over­seen on a na­tional level by a new ‘guid­ing mind’ body, with greater pow­ers for re­gional and lo­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing handed to de­volved trans­port au­thor­i­ties.

McDon­ald added: “This is one of the many ex­am­ples of how the frag­mented rail­way is un­able to make the nec­es­sary trade-offs, and a small snap­shot of the ap­proach to rail­way plan­ning which, in my opin­ion, has gone badly wrong.

“Rail needs less po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence, with ex­perts given the lat­i­tude to achieve the strate­gic goals set out by gov­ern­ment, which is why un­der our plan we will set up an arm’s length body with a guid­ing mind and many of the func­tions which have been lost in a pri­va­tised rail­way.”

McDon­ald also re­peated Labour’s com­mit­ment to fund­ing a largescale elec­tri­fi­ca­tion pro­gramme, in­clud­ing a rev­er­sal of the Gov­ern­ment’s con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion in July 2017 to scrap schemes in South Wales, Cum­bria and the East Mid­lands.

He said that costs would need to be ad­dressed, but that elec­tri­fi­ca­tion re­mained the most cost-ef­fec­tive way to de­car­bonise the rail­ways over the longer term.

“Lower-car­bon mea­sures like us­ing auto stop-start tech­nol­ogy and sta­tion shore sup­ply to power trains are an ex­pen­sive dis­trac­tion. I say: why don’t we just elec­trify the rail­way? I hope many of you here to­day can come up with pro­pos­als for how we can re­duce the cost, which is now an im­per­a­tive.”

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