Fares, rail policy and DfT news

06.12.16

Maynard outlines plans to move rail investment to Innovate UK

Investment in innovation across rail development could be transferred from the DfT to Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency.

Speaking at the Future of Rail conference on Friday, rail minister Paul Maynard said he was looking into introducing the changes in April.

Meanwhile, the DfT will continue to invest £13.2m with the RSSB this financial year to boost rail innovation, followed by £5m of private sector funding in the next five years.

Maynard, who wrote about the need for rail innovation in the latest edition of RTM, said: “I want to see the rail sector raising its game, investing its own money and leveraging all the public support available, better to deliver for passengers.”

He argued that the changes were needed to connect rail innovation more closely with the opportunities offered by Innovate UK.

In the Autumn Statement, chancellor Philip Hammond promised a £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund, including £4.7bn of research and development funding which will be administered by Innovate UK.

Maynard warned that the investment was needed to fill “an increasing gap opening up between what passengers want and what train operators can provide”.

The rail minister argued passengers were suffering increasing delays and overcrowding, while rail operators were “conservative – with a small ‘c’” in finding R&D solutions. He flagged up increasing the availability of automatic compensation for delays and on-board wi-fi and offering real-time location information about trains as the next priorities.

Maynard added that “in coming days and weeks”, the DfT would look at guaranteeing that the industry is focused on ensuring it is acting in the best interests of passengers, reforming the ticketing system, and attracting increased and more diverse rail funding.

In his keynote speech at this year’s Infrarail, Sir Peter Hendy, the chair of Network Rail, called for private investment to fund the network improvements needed.

At the same conference, Martin Buck, transition and strategy director at Crossrail, said that short-term funding cycles and a lack of continuity were holding back rail innovation.

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