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De-politicise rail control period funding, Labour tells RIA

Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, has told the Railway Industry Association (RIA) that rail project funding should be ‘de-politicised’.

Speaking in an interview at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, he said that a collaborative approach is needed in order to find the best solutions for the public and to provide certainty for rail infrastructure projects around the country.

The chief executive of the RIA, Darren Caplan, has welcomed the comments.

“Our clear message to all parties is that rail funding must be consistent over the five-year control periods (CP), instead of the current situation where we have high levels of funding in the first few years that disappears in the later years of the CP,” he said.

“This discussion about how we fund our railways is long overdue and RIA is keen to work with all parties so that we can avoid the boom and busts we have at the moment. With greater certainty over funding and future projects the sector can deliver even better value for money, for passenger and freight customers and the taxpayer.”

Labour has been calling for re-nationalisation of the railways for some time.

The Conservative Conference follows next week, and RIA said it is looking forward to hearing the Tory stance on McDonald’s comments.

(Top image c. Torsten Dettlaff)


Jimbo   27/09/2017 at 18:15

It is easy for Labour to say this when they are not in power, but their record shows they are no different when they get into power - both the Beeching cuts and rail privatisation were Tory ideas that continued to be implemented by Labour governments. All funding from central government is politically controlled and to pretend otherwise is naive or stupid. When politicians are under pressure from all areas to increase spending, they have to prioritise and rail investment just isn't high priority enough. If the current Labour opposition get into power, they will eventually realise there is no magic money tree and do exactly the same sort of thing as previous governments.

Mike Dimmick   28/09/2017 at 10:08

I think the five year planning horizon is a good idea, but it should not be re-planned at five year intervals. Instead, each year, funding should be decided for five years hence - so this year we would plan for 2022's spending, next year for 2023 etc. If money is not spent in the expected year it should be automatically rolled over to the next year. The Treasury's annualisation - that plans are made yearly for the following year only, and anything unspent is not guaranteed to be carried over - was a major part of the problem in the past, and continues to be so now. Rail projects - any major infrastructure projects - simply cannot be implemented in a single year. In addition, committing to building something has to include a commitment to funding its maintenance and renewal. This has to be set up in primary legislation so that it is much harder for subsequent governments to delete funding in response to imagined crises. Fiscal policy is of course an important part of overall economic policy, so there may need to be some correction if the economy is overheating or that public infrastructure is genuinely crowding out private needs. But we cannot go back to such short-sighted planning.

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