Industry leaders have been lining up to call on the government to get critical rail freight improvements back on track, following the decision to delay a £38 billion programme of upgrades to the network.
FTA chief executive David Wells said: “The infrastructure enhancements are vital for making sure the UK can capitalise on use of rail for its freight needs, with all the environmental and safety benefits that will bring. It is disappointing that Network Rail’s programme has run into delays and increased costs, and FTA is glad that the Secretary of State has taken these steps today to address the problem for the future.
“It is disappointing to see any upgrades to our rail network delayed, as it still suffers from historic underinvestment that prevents it playing its full role on our supply chain.”
Maggie Simpson, executive director of the Rail Freight Group, said “It is regrettable that important projects are being deferred, many of which would have had long-term benefits for freight. Network Rail must now accelerate delivery of these strategic freight schemes, which will deliver real and immediate improvements for the freight operators and their customers.”
And Rhian Kelly, CBI business environment director, said: “Delivery of these projects is critical to continuing the process of upgrading the UK’s rail network and providing a more efficient service for passengers. It’s important that the Government provides a clear signal as soon as possible about when these much-needed investments will go ahead.”
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin told MPs earlier this week that rising costs and delays made current plans untenable. “Important aspects of Network Rail’s investment programme are costing more and taking longer,” said McLoughlin. “The UK supply chain for the complex signalling works needs to be stronger. Construction rates have been slow.
“It has taken longer to obtain planning consents from some local authorities than expected. But that is no excuse. All of these problems could and should have been foreseen by Network Rail. So I want to inform the House of the action I am taking to reset this programme and get it back on track.”
Transport for London commissioner Sir Peter Hendy has been appointed Network Rail chairman after predecessor professor Richard Parry-Jones’ resignation following a three-year tenure.
David Wells said: “I personally want to welcome the appointment of Sir Peter Hendy as the chair of Network Rail. We have worked together for years on the complex issues around London’s transport network, and I’m confident that he is the right person to ensure Network Rail delivers in the most effective fashion possible.”
Hendy has served as commissioner of TfL since 2006, having previously served as TfL’s managing director of surface transport. He has also served FirstGroup, as deputy director UK bus for FirstGroup, and was managing director CentreWest London Buses.