Railway Industry Association calls on Government to reveal its proposals to enhance the UK’s railways

The Railway Industry Association (RIA), the voice of the UK rail supply community, has written an open letter to the Rail Minister Andrew Jones MP, calling for changes to the decision-making process for rail infrastructure improvements, known as enhancements, to ensure greater transparency.

The letter calls on the DfT to publish a full list of enhancement projects for Control Period 6 and to commit to full transparency throughout the decision-making process for enhancements. The Government is already committed to doing this in its response to the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry on rail infrastructure investment.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), issued a statement, saying: “With the next rail investment Control Period, CP6, starting just next month, the Railway Industry Association and its members are concerned that the Government’s new Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP) process will reduce the rail industry’s ability to plan for and deliver enhancement projects.

“Whilst this RNEP process may bring openness in terms of how future enhancement projects may be assessed, we now have reduced visibility of the actual upcoming work required on the network. This makes planning and efficient delivery of enhancements work for rail businesses more difficult, and has the knock-on effect of stifling investment, jobs and economic growth in the rail industry, as well as going against the Government’s own recently-published guidance which says there is a “new expectation that all central government departments will publish their commercial pipelines” and that these changes “will help suppliers to understand the government’s long-term demand for services and prepare themselves to respond to contract opportunities (from the Cabinet Office’s ‘Outsourcing Playbook’).

“So we urge the Government to publish as soon as possible a full list of enhancements projects planned for CP6, as well as those projects planned as part of the Hendy Tail which have been carried over from CP5. And we call for the full transparency going forward for this new Pipeline.”


How the New Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP) works

Last year the Government announced it would be changing the process by which improvements to the rail network, known as enhancements, would be decided. The Government instituted a new ‘pipeline’ approach to decide which schemes would get the green light as and when proposed –  titled the ‘Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP) – see the image below.

However, this new process for making decisions about which enhancement projects go-ahead stopped short of saying which projects were actually needed. Whilst the industry knows how individual rail projects will progress through different stages before coming to market, other than projects overhanging from CP5, there are no new construction-ready schemes in the pipeline, and there will be a significant hiatus before any new work comes to market.

The fact that specific projects will not be known means rail businesses cannot prepare for upcoming work, reducing their investment, jobs, and skills development, and threatening the ability of smaller rail firms to survive. It also increases the cost of rail projects for taxpayers, passengers and freight.

RIA is therefore calling for full transparency for the RNEP, to help businesses plan, invest and deliver more for the UK’s rail network.

The Open Letter to the Rail Minister can be found here