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NIC needs complete strategy to underpin success – Crossrail 2 boss

The head of Crossrail 2 has said that while recent National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) recommendations are to be welcomed, there are risks without having a “complete strategy” in place for the whole country.

Speaking yesterday at Infrarail during an RTM panel session on infrastructure planning, Michèle Dix CBE, managing director of Crossrail 2, said there were risks at “looking at schemes in isolation without a complete strategy”.

Last month, the NIC said that Crossrail 2 must be developed ‘as a priority’ and delivered by 2033. Shortly after this, the chancellor gave the greenlight to funding for the project and HS3 in the north.

While Dix welcomed the recommendations, and will be working hard over the next year to put a revised business plan together, she said: “You might want to deliver a strategy first across the country, and then look at individual schemes within that strategy to understand when you make decisions and recommendations that when something goes forward, when there is competition for funding, you have the priorities right.”

Asked when she would like to see such a plan in place, Dix said: “I’d like to have seen that strategy in place already. I think it is a fundamental thing that is required to underpin the whole process.”

Managing expectations

During the panel session, David Hoggarth, director at Rail North, which RTM was told could become the franchising arm of TfN, said that there are risks with regards to expectations in the NIC enabling long-term strategic decision-making.

“When setting this up, I think there are great expectations that you’re actually overnight going to be on the ground delivering infrastructure in a way that you weren’t before. It isn’t quite about that,” he said.

“The other risk is about, potentially, another [organisational] body being in this space. But I think that is mitigated by the clarity of direction we have seen from the infrastructure commission and, speaking for the north, what I see is a new maturity of working together and collaboratively to create a single voice.

“Now the north is able to talk to NIC with a single voice about the priorities and getting it joined-up, which helps mitigate some of the risk.”

Differences in funding cycles

Network Rail’s director for network strategy and planning, Jo Kaye, added that there will be an issue over boundaries that have to be overcome in the process.

“I wouldn’t necessarily categorise it as a risk, but it is certainly something we’ll have to manage: the boundaries between what falls under the purview of the NIC and what doesn’t,” she said.

“Clearly, the railway network, by definition, is a network that has to be managed and planned as such. So, we have to manage those interfaces very effectively so it doesn’t become a risk.”

Kaye added that differences in funding cycles between the various partners are also hurdles to be overcome.

“I’m very aware that the planning and funding cycle in Network Rail is slightly different to many of the local authorities and organisations we work with and, again, it will be different with NIC. So we need to work closely together on this,” she said.

(Image: Left to right - Michèle Dix CBE, managing director of Crossrail 2; Jo Kaye, Network Rail’s director for network strategy and planning; and David Hoggarth, director at Rail North c. Infrarail and Oomph)


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