Long term rail vision needed, says Transport Committee

January 28 2015  

Long term rail vision needed, says Transport Committee

Network Rail has been urged to publish a long term vision for the railways up until 2043 and clearly set out work expected to be carried out in each five year control period.

Transport Select Committee chair Louise Ellman said on Friday it is concerning that witnesses called to a recent inquiry felt there was no clear long term plan for the railways. A forward looking strategy, she added, should set out confirmed objectives and plans for the next five years, with provisional plans for each five year period.

The Committee’s report ‘Investing in the Railways’ also raised concern that key rail enhancement projects such as electrification in the North and North West of England have been announced by Ministers without Network Rail having a clear estimate of what the projects will cost. This is leading, Ms Ellman says, to uncertainty about whether the projects will be delivered on time, or at all.

“There are worrying signs for the capacity of Network Rail to manage multiple, complex engineering projects simultaneously,” Ms Ellman said. “Network Rail must demonstrate that it can deliver key improvements on time, and while still delivering a safe and efficient service for all passengers.”

Her Committee also said Network Rail should publish a ‘traffic light’ status update for each project committed to in a control period, which would make clear whether, for example, a project had been provisionally approved subject to detailed costings, finally approved but without a start date or approved and ready to start.

The report also commended the work of Network Rail engineers who rebuilt the seawall and re-opened the railway line at Dawlish, following the devastating storms.

In addition the report emphasised that engineering over runs at Christmas, which left thousands of passengers stranded, was unacceptable. Network Rail must, it said, demonstrate how it will learn from the mistakes it has made in its engineering works and maintain a decent service to passengers while enhancement work is carried out.

A Network Rail spokesman said: "We have taken on board the Transport Select Committee’s comments and are addressing any concerns that they have raised."

Photo: Network Rail

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