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Railways

Volume 491: debated on Wednesday 22 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will take steps to ensure that Network Rail does not defer essential renewal work; (268666)

(2) if he will take steps to ensure there is no reduction in the frequency of signal maintenance on railway lines;

(3) if he will take steps to ensure that there is no reduction in the frequency of rail track inspections.

These are operational matters for Network Rail as it aims to deliver the value for money needed to meet the output and efficiency targets for maintenance and renewal of the national network over the next five years of Control Period 4, set by the Office of Rail Regulation. Details of these targets can be found in “Periodic review 2008—Determination of Network Rail’s outputs and funding for 2009-14”. As the industry economic and safety regulator, the Office of Rail Regulation will independently monitor the work.

Network Rail has announced that it will be investing almost £4 billion on an intensive track renewals programme to further improve the network between 2009-14. Total outputs will remain as previously planned, though phasing adjustments in the early part of the five-year period will result in less track renewal work in 2009-10 to allow time for new, more efficient working practices to take effect. Network Rail has made clear that only non-critical work will be deferred.

Network Rail’s decision relates solely to track renewals. The company has assured the Department for Transport that maintenance and track inspections will not be affected.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the likely change in the number of rail passengers in the 12 months from April 2009. (269755)

The Department for Transport does not make forecasts of year-on-year changes in rail passenger numbers. The Government’s High Level Output Specification for the railways for the period 2009-14 is set out in the White Paper “Delivering a Sustainable Railway”, published in July 2007. This forecasts rail passenger numbers for 2008-09 and specifies the additional numbers to be accommodated on the network by the end of the 2013-14.