Editor's Comment

03.07.17

Rapid progress needed

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 17

As RTM went to press, the National Infrastructure Commission outlined a list of the ‘top 12’ immediate priorities on which ministers must make rapid progress in the next year. Unsurprisingly, major rail schemes, including HS2, Crossrail 2 and HS3, featured highly in the projects that needed speedy development. 

Lord Adonis stated that all of these have been agreed in principle, “but require decisive action to get them moving in the new Parliament. They ought to be at the top of ministers’ in-trays, and they ought not to linger there a day more than necessary”. 

It was unfortunate, then, that the only project to have been mentioned in the recent Queen’s Speech was that a new bill will be introduced to deliver the next phase of HS2. This is despite the government saying that it “will bring forward proposals to ensure that critical national infrastructure is protected to safeguard national security”. 

As Darren Caplan, CEO of the Railway Industry Association, noted, it was welcome news to hear the commitment to transport infrastructure, but concerns remain about the lack of commitment to Crossrail 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. He added that the green light must be given quickly to progress these schemes. 

I’m sure that within the coming weeks and months, we will have a clearer direction of travel for the government in the new Parliament. There were, for example, a few fast and furious announcements made shortly after purdah restrictions were lifted, including the shortlists for the South Eastern and West Coast Partnership franchises (more on page 4) and the news that First MTR had signed a £895m deal with Bombardier for new Aventra trains to run on the South Western network (more on page 6).

Collaboration and innovation are key themes running throughout this edition, with contributors providing RTM with an update on the development of the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (page 66), Network Rail explaining how it intends to change its relationship with whoever wins the new Wales & Borders franchise (page 74) and Imperial College London discussing its investigation into the use of solar energy to power the rail network (page 60).

One of my favourite articles is about the 2017 instalment of the Big Rail Diversity Challenge (page 26), where RTM finished in a respectable fifth place. Our reporter, Josh Mines, gives a fantastic account of what happened throughout the day, which included everything from herding ducks to blindfolded Land Rover racing. Once again, the event achieved its aim by proving that gender-balanced teams really do work better together. I can’t wait for next year’s event.

I hope you enjoy this jam-packed edition of RTM.

David Stevenson

Editor

Front cover image © Paul Hudson: www.flickr.com/photos/pahudson

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