NIC chair: Government must commit to clear plan for Crossrail 2 and NPR

Progress on Crossrail 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail has been branded “hugely disappointing”, by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) chair, Sir John Armitt.

The NIC’s first Annual Monitoring Report, published today, has raised concerns over the government’s failure to establish a firm timetable or funding plan for the two schemes.

The report also criticises the mobile phone coverage on the country’s railway lines.

Last year, the NIC made several key recommendations, and highlighted areas which required urgent action, including introduction of the hybrid Bill for phase 2a of HS2 and publication of the finalised route for 2b; publication of a single integrated plan for phase one of HS3, now known as Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR); and a published plan for the funding and phased construction of Crossrail 2.

It also recommended a comprehensive plan for the delivery of high quality mobile services alongside main railway lines.

NIC chair, Armitt, said that although progress has been made since these recommendations, there is a “disappointing lack of pace in several areas,” arguing that “much greater urgency” is needed to tackle the poor mobile phone signal coverage on major railway lines.

The report found that progress had been slower regarding the redevelopment of Manchester Piccadilly station, but welcomed the establishment of the Manchester Piccadilly Joint Board to provide advice and implementation of a new scheme for the station.

It calls on the government and other stakeholders to work together to agree a preferred redevelopment option by the end of this year, to avoid delay to any necessary amendments to the HS2 phase 2b Bill.

Criticising the progress made on the two rail schemes, Armitt said: “It is hugely disappointing that nearly two years after the Commission’s reports on Crossrail 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, the government still has not firmly committed to a timetable for funding or got a clear plan for delivering either of these nationally significant projects.

“It is vital that decisions on both schemes are made this year and that the government commits to the long-term vision that supports the recommendations we made.”

Top image: Nick Ansell PA Archive

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Sandy   16/02/2018 at 13:34

Plus ça change, plus le même chose. ♪Why are we waiting... ♪ ?

Peter Jarvis   16/02/2018 at 14:32

If HMG is paralysed with indecision about this Brecsit business, what hope is there of doing anything else at all?

Jimbo   16/02/2018 at 22:20

The problem is that these decisions involve significant amounts of money in this parliament, and until the government understands what the fallout from Brexit will be, they don't want to commit to anything this significant. Before the Brexit vote, someone pointed out that a leave vote would mean governmental paralysis for a number of years, and here we are. Don't expect an decision on these projects any time soon.

Peter   19/02/2018 at 07:59

Agree with you there Jimbo, plus there's the obvious possibility that any senior decision-making civil servant in Whitehall has been seconded (formally or informally) into dealing with Brexit. Pausing investment decisions is the last thing we need now though - anyone with half a brain knows Brexit is going to jolt the economy, ranging somewhere between moderate hit and outright depression. Surely the government should be throwing caution to the wind and ploughing money into infrastructure in the hope that it breeds optimism and cushions at least some of the blow. At the moment we're drifting towards rocks with the engine off - the least the government could do is pull the starter cord.

Lutz   20/02/2018 at 09:22

Someone is panicking that their pet projects are not going to turn out as they had first hoped. They may well be justified. CR2 has running into difficulties with TfL attempting to find a workable solution for early stage funding of more than half the bill in time for the next milestone. Add to this: declining patronage over the last few years on the related national routes now showing up on tube services too, and expectations of problems with high inflation in the coming years. AS it is, the CR2 decision should probably get put back, perhaps into 2020 - after we know the outcome of Brexit.

John Webster   21/02/2018 at 15:00

The NIC have "nailed" the problem here but indecision with some Northern Authorities should have been highlighted as well.

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