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Rail Update

Volume 638: debated on Tuesday 20 March 2018

I have today launched an invitation for investors who want to invest in rail infrastructure to bring forward proposals for the new southern rail link to Heathrow. In addition they are being invited to propose schemes around the country that could enhance and expand the rail network. Promoters and investors now have two months to start working up proposals which are financially credible without Government support.

This Government are already making the biggest investment in the railway since the Victorian era, delivering better journeys for passengers across the network. However, I want to go further by unlocking new private sector funding to invest in railway infrastructure across the country. This will be in addition to the Government’s significant commitment to invest £48 billion in railway infrastructure in the next funding period.

Governments do not have a monopoly on good ideas for the railways. I have been clear that I want the knowledge and expertise of investors and local partners to contribute to delivering new connections, more services and better journeys for passengers.

This approach has already proved effective on a number of roads schemes in the UK. By encouraging innovative ideas and new investment on our railways, we can relieve the burden on taxpayers and fare payers with schemes that match our transport needs, support our economic and housing aspirations and ensure everyone benefits from an enhanced rail network.

Heathrow is a perfect example of how this approach can make a real difference. The Department is continuing to work on a western rail link to Heathrow. The proposed southern rail link to Heathrow is an exciting opportunity to harness new and innovative ideas from the private sector and there are already a number of consortia looking to construct it. I am certain that there are other opportunities nationwide for third parties to work with the Government to improve the railway.

I have published my guidance for market-led proposals to provide clarity on what Government are looking for from these ideas and the process by which it will consider them. I have also published the “Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline”.

When I published my high level output specification and statement of funds available for the railway in England and Wales for the next investment period, I made clear that the Government were developing a new process for rail enhancements—the “Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline” provides this. This is designed to ensure that future rail projects are planned and scrutinised to deliver maximum value and benefit to rail users and taxpayers.

Taken together this provides a clear framework for how we will improve the way we enhance our railway.

The changes I have outlined today lay the foundations for improving rail access to Heathrow. They also set in motion ambitious proposals on new rail schemes that could deliver significant improvements for passengers across the network and to maintain the record levels of investment this Government are delivering in our railways.