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Future of Rail

Volume 602: debated on Thursday 26 November 2015

I wish to inform the House of the latest developments on rail investment and the recent publication of Sir Peter Hendy’s re-plan in resetting the rail upgrade programme, which can be found on the Network Rail website.

In June, I announced that important aspects of Network Rail’s investment programme were costing more and taking longer. I also announced the appointment of Sir Peter Hendy as the new chair of Network Rail, and asked him to develop proposals for how the rail upgrade programme could be put on a more realistic and sustainable footing.

Sir Peter Hendy has now provided me with his proposal for how to re-plan our rail upgrades, following his advice to un-pause works on TransPennine and Midland Main Line in September. I have accepted his recommendations, subject to a short period of consultation with relevant stakeholders. His report was published on 25 November as part of the spending review announcements. I placed a copy of his report in the Libraries of both Houses yesterday.

Firstly, I want to be absolutely clear that no infrastructure schemes have been cancelled. Flagship improvement works to build a Northern Powerhouse in the north and the midlands are under way, helping to rebalance our country’s economy by creating an engine for growth. Electrification of the TransPennine and Midland Main Line has already resumed and will completely transform the railways by improving city to city connectivity.

Radical schemes such as Crossrail, Thameslink and works on the Great Western will make journeys better, simpler, faster and more reliable throughout the south-east and south-west. Britain’s railways are truly on the road to recovery, despite years of underinvestment by successive Governments.

Sir Peter and I are both absolutely resolute in our drive to fix the problems in the planning process for rail enhancements. That is why I asked Dame Colette Bowe to look at lessons learned from the planning processes used for the 2014-19 enhancements programme, and to make recommendations for better investment planning in future. I published her report on 25 November, which I have laid as a Command Paper in the House and copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

I have accepted all of Dame Colette Bowe’s recommendations. My Department, together with Network Rail and the Office of Rail and Road, are taking urgent steps to develop and implement a number of actions following her recommendations. These will ensure that an improved approach to planning and delivering rail infrastructure enhancements are put in place. I have placed a copy of my response to the Bowe report in the Libraries of both Houses and on my Department’s website.

Building the infrastructure our country needs is incredibly challenging. It depends on hard work and good design and thousands of people working night after night, sometimes in very difficult conditions. Over Christmas and new year alone, over 20,000 members of Network Rail will be working to deliver the railway upgrade plan. This is a £150 million investment, which will provide new station facilities, longer platforms, extra tracks, new junctions and thousands of pieces of new, more reliable equipment to make journeys better.

We must continue to invest. Our railways matter, not just helping people get around, but helping them get on. It is absolutely crucial that our infrastructure is delivered efficiently and continues to represent the best value for money.