On the eve of the Conservative party conference in Manchester the Railway Industry Association (RIA) has set out key asks of Government.
The RIA are asking for the Tories to include HS2 Phase 2 (Birmingham-Manchester) legislation in the forthcoming King’s Speech, to enable delivery of HS2 in full.
Rail passenger numbers this year have regularly hit 100% of pre-Covid levels and are now 15% higher than the time when HS2 was approved. The country will need much more railway capacity in the future, and delivering the full HS2 scheme frees up significant capacity on the West Coast, Midlands and East Coast Mainlines.
They are asking the government to commit to investment pipeline certainty, and clarify which rail enhancement projects are going ahead.
The Government needs to publish a visible pipeline of work, including its list of enhancement projects (the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline) as repeatedly promised since 2019, and commit to delivering transformational projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Rail Hub. Certainty is the best way to keep costs down for taxpayers.
The RIA are wanting Rishi Sunak to deliver rail on reform, which includes a “guiding mind”, to enable better future rail services and efficiency.
Bring rail costs and revenues together, ensure the Transport Bill enabling rail restructure is included in the King’s Speech in November, and publish a Plan for those aspects of rail reform not requiring legislation.
And lastly asking the government to bring forward fleet orders for low carbon rolling stock immediately.
There is a real risk of jobs being lost and factories closed in the coming months without a smooth forward pipeline of new train and refurbishment work. Decarbonisation of UK rail – including electrification and the development of hydrogen and battery trains – depends on this.
RIA Chief Executive Darren Caplan said, “UK rail has the potential to help the Government deliver on its agenda to grow the economy, boost jobs and skills, level-up, and decarbonise. But to do this, it needs certainty about the structure of the railway industry and the work pipeline – both infrastructure and rolling stock related – for the months and years ahead.
“There are real concerns currently about uncertainty on major projects, including HS2, new and refurbished train order books, and whether rail restructure – which the Government has been working on since 2018 – will actually be delivered.
“This is worrying, not just for rail suppliers, rail clients and customers – both passengers and freight – but it also damages the UK’s reputation for those who might want to invest in UK plc.
“We therefore respectfully call on the Government to back HS2 in full, publish the rail enhancements list, deliver rail reform, and commit to a pipeline of rolling stock work to keep the skills we need and ward off imminent job losses and factory closures.
“Only by delivering certainty and visibility to the railway industry will rail be able to help deliver on the Government’s agenda of economic growth, levelling-up and decarbonisation.”