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DfT criticised for ignoring environmental impact in franchise bids

The DfT has been accused of failing to make environmental impact a priority in rail franchise contracts.

An environmental audit of the department by the National Audit Office (NAO) found that many stakeholders said the department lacked a clear sustainability policy and appeared to prioritise efficiency over environmental impact in procurement.

The NAO also warned that the department is failing to embed environmental considerations into bids for railway franchises. Bidders are required to set out their environmental strategy, but this only accounts for 3% of the tender score.

More investment in environmentally sustainable rail is important for the UK to meet its commitment, under the Climate Change Act 2008, to an 80% reduction in domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The UK’s rail network currently produces just two million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, compared to 107 million tonnes from roads.

However, stakeholders told the NAO that although the department has set a target in their strategic business plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 37% for every passenger, this goal seemed arbitrary and not based on a firm understanding of what was possible.

The briefing quotes Sir Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, as saying:  “Delivering sustainability requires that government establish clear responsibility and ownership, get the measures [focused] and built into the plans so people can be held to account for them, make sure that you draw attention and evaluate the strategic context, and finally, establish and insist on accountability for those who are responsible.”

It said that it is left to individual contract managers to ensure environmental targets are met. However, this is not the primary focus of managers and the report said that the department does not provide them with enough support to achieve their goals.

It did, however, point to some positive environmental commitments in the railway sector, including considerations of the carbon dioxide emissions from freight in building HS2 and the delayed electrification programme.

Graham Kenn, technical director for coastal and river engineering at JBA consulting, wrote for the Jan/Feb edition of RTM about the increased pressures climate change will put on rail asset management.


A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We’re pleased the National Audit Office report highlights the importance of DfT’s work in delivering the government’s environmental goals. We will reflect on the recommendations in the report as part of our ongoing work.”

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(Image c. Lefteris Pitarakis from AP Photo)




Manchester Mike   03/05/2016 at 22:35

DfT out to lunch once again. One wonders just how competent this department really is. Are they all climate change deniers?

Andrew Gwilt   05/05/2016 at 01:31

DfT in deep trouble yet again. Typical.

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