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UK government fails to make concrete commitment to new railway investment in HLOS statement

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The Minister for Transport, Chris Grayling, has said that the government is focused on the ‘operation, maintenance and renewal of the existing railway’ as it makes no specific commitment to new investment in its five-yearly high level output specification (HLOS).

The document sets out what work the government wishes to be undertaken during the next Control Period (CP) from 2019 to 2024 but doesn’t reference any specific projects.

In addition, no clear commitment has been made on the initial statement of funds (SOFA), but a further announcement is expected to be made ‘no later than 13 October 2017’.

In a written statement to parliament, Chris Grayling said the government wants the railway to become more focused on punctuality and reliability.

He added that the government expects to invest in further enhancements to the country’s railway but – in light of the recommendations for better planning and cost control from the Bowe Review – the government will be making the announcements separately, with more information expected in the autumn once assurances are made on the likely costs of work programmes.

The amount of maintenance work will be increased in CP6, however, to maintain safety and improve on current levels of reliability and punctuality.

In the HLOS it reads, ‘A critical underpinning for this statement is the need for the rail industry, and Network Rail specifically, to make significant progress in improving the efficiency of its activities.

‘This should result in a marked improvement in Network Rail’s productivity and real terms year-on-year efficiencies.

‘In particular, the secretary of state expects an ambitious implementation of route devolution to ensure competitive tension and improved understanding of costs through better benchmarking.’

Reacting to the news, chair of the Rail Supply Group Gordon Wakeford said, ‘Going forward, we urge Government and Network Rail to pay careful attention to the issues that can be caused at the end of a Control Period and the start of another, but we welcome today’s first major step in the CP6 process and, as a supply chain, look forward to working with them on this basis.’

RMT has repeated its call for public ownership of the railway following the announcement.

Read more: A record £3.9 billion was spent by Network Rail across 2016/17



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