In September, RIA launched the BE: SURE campaign calling on the Government to show the rail enhancements it is planning over the coming years.
Rail enhancements are large scale projects delivering new infrastructure such as building a new track for additional capacity or electrifying a route.
The UK rail network needs enhancements to increase rail capacity, improve journey times, and generate further economic growth. The Government also has goals to decarbonise the rail network, which can only be achieved through enhancement projects.
For the new funding cycle, known as Control Period 6 - which began in April 2019 and runs to May 2024 - the Government moved the decision-making process for these enhancements, to a new pipeline approach, where individual projects progress through different stages before coming to market. This is known as the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP).
The new RNEP has led to reduced visibility of upcoming work for rail businesses:
- There are no new construction-ready schemes in the new Control Period, CP6, pipeline, other than those already scheduled and over-hanging from the previous Control Period, CP5 – this means there will be a significant hiatus before any new projects come to market; There will only be an announcement about new projects once a project has progressed from one RNEP stage to another, preventing advance planning;
- There is no time limit for each stage of the RNEP – so a project could take any amount of time to clear the pipeline; and
- The decision could be taken to cancel a project at any stage in the pipeline.
8 key concerns with the new Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline
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- A RNEP without disclosure of all new enhancement projects means uncertainty for rail businesses. This will reduce investment, jobs, skills development and threatening the ability of SMEs to survive. It will also increase the cost of future work.
- There are currently few enhancement projects ready to come to market, so there is likely to be a hiatus in work for rail businesses. This will impact investment, jobs and the ability of rail businesses to deliver in the future
- The Government has said it is good practice to provide businesses with full transparency on upcoming projects. The Cabinet Office’s new Outsourcing Playbook says that “there is a new expectation that all central government departments will publish their commercial pipelines" in line with good business practice. The Department for Transport must apply this principle to the RNEP.
- The Government has committed to full transparency of the RNEP. in its response to the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry on rail infrastructure investment, the Government committed to “transparent policy making and intend to make clear public statements as we take investment decisions on enhancements at each stage of the pipeline”.
- The timeframe for future projects to come to market is unknown. The Government have not specified the amount of time it will take for a project to progress from one stage to another, or through the whole RNEP. This makes it impossible to plan for an upcoming project.
- Future projects could be scrapped even in the later stages of the RNEP. The Government has said that projects could be turned down at any stage of the RNEP. This means there is no certainty of a project proceeding until it has passed the entire RNEP.
- Enhancements require different skillsets to renewals, meaning rail businesses will not find it easy to shift to other the renewals market. The Government has increased spending for renewals in the next five yearly funding cycle, Control Period 6. However, enhancements require more multidisciplinary, expensive skill sets that are different from those used in renewals.
- Enhancement projects are required to improve the rail network. The UK rail network must continue to be enhanced to ensure greater capacity, improve journey times, increase customer satisfaction and generate further economic growth. The Government also has goals to decarbonise and digitalise the rail network, both of which can only be achieved through enhancement projects.
If you are a RIA member impacted by the lack of visibility of enhancements, we would like to hear from you. Please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 201 0777.