Rail group deplores lack of industry improvements plan

The Railway Industry Association has criticised the continuing absence of an updated Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline, which the Government promised to publish annually but which last appeared more than four years ago.

RIA points out that today marks four years, four months, four weeks and four days since a version of the Plan last appeared, accompanied by a promise of 12-month updates.

As recently as last month, rail minister Huw Merriman was quoted as saying that he would give a ‘definitive view’ on the future of the Plan ‘in a very short timescale’.

RIA says that a ‘quartet’ milestone has been reached, and that it has four questions: which rail schemes are under business plan development, what business plan stage have the schemes reached, what funding has been approved, and what are the potential timescales for delivery?

The Government is facing a new deadline in October, when the Procurement Act becomes active, requiring the publication of pipelines and contract notices.

In fact, the Government’s own ‘Construction Playbook’ from 2022 states that ‘One of the most important things we can do is to prepare, maintain and publish comprehensive pipelines of current and future government contracts and commercial activity.’

RIA chief executive Darren Caplan said: ‘Given the budget for the RNEP is roughly £10 billion over five years, there should be a clear and visible plan for how this money will be spent.

‘Piecemeal announcements have been made on individual projects but there is no comprehensive view on future enhancement plans for the railway. The Government should set out which rail schemes within the RNEP, the new Network North proposals, and the Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands, will go ahead. It should also make clear if it intends to change, scrap or replace the RNEP process. Rail suppliers need clarity on which enhancement projects will proceed to deliver best value to passengers, freight and taxpayers in the long-term.’

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