Despite the continuing recession and the euro-crisis abroad, the Coalition Government is standing firm behind the rail industry, says Theresa Villiers.
‘The Government is pressing ahead despite the deficit because we believe that improving our railway is a crucial way to boost growth and strengthen our competitiveness.’ The Minister of State for Transport was speaking at the Infrarail exhibition at a conference organised by the rail engineer. She started by welcoming RailStaff’s editorial policy of running good news stories about railways. ‘I do agree it‘s a fairly novel concept – good news about the rail industry – but there certainly is some around.’
In her speech she stressed the need to give better value for money. ‘By 2019, we want the industry to close the full £3.5 billion efficiency gap identified in the McNulty report.’ Theresa Villiers listed projects including Crossrail, High Speed Two, Thameslink, Reading and Birmingham New Street developments, electrification, better freight routes and plans for the IEP rolling stock as evidence of renewed confidence in railways and the unique role the industry plays.
Pledging continuing support Villiers said, ‘We’ve broken the typical pattern, where rail has often seemed to be among the first casualties when Government spending has to be reined in to restore the public finances to health,’ she said. ‘Thanks to some very difficult decisions on issues such as VAT and welfare reform, we’ve been able to commit £18 billion to rail in the current spending review period.’
She also said the government was adopting a new collaborative approach to change, as well as adopting less prescriptive and longer franchises. The minister re-iterated her call for greater efficiency and value for money. ‘Our blueprint for the future of rail is clear: sustained investment in the rail infrastructure, and a sustained attack on waste and inefficiency; and better services for passengers and a better deal for both the farepayer and taxpayer.’
The railway industry looks set to continue playing a leading role in the resurgent British economy.