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Rail investment plans set ‘tough targets’ for industry – Higgins

Industry professionals have welcomed the Government’s £9bn investment in rail, as detailed in the High Level Output Specification (HLOS), published today.

But they have recognised the challenge achieving these specifications presents to the industry. 

RIA director general Jeremy Candfield said: “It will bring great benefits to the travelling public, freight hauliers and the nation as a whole”. He particularly welcomed the “central role” given to the programme of electrification announced. 

Concerning approval for the Northern Hub, Cllr Andrew Fender, chair of the TfGM Committee, said the investments would “change the face of rail services in the North of England in a manner that has not been seen for several generations” and described the programme as a “catalyst” for economic growth. 

“This really is a fantastic day,” he added. 

Network Rail chief executive David Higgins admitted that there are “tough targets” set by the Government, made even more challenging with the need to deliver record numbers of services on “essentially Victorian infrastructure”, but called the investment “not only welcome, but essential”. 

And chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, Tim O’Toole of FirstGroup, welcomed the announcement, but warned: “The extensive investment programme is a massive boost for rail but with it comes an expectation that the rail industry will improve its efficiency and value for money.

“Achieving fundamental improvements in efficiency whilst delivering the major investment programme outlined in the High Level Output Specification is a significant task for the industry.” 

Michael Roberts, chief executive of ATOC said: “This announcement is good for the economy and the environment.” 

On the contentious issue of how the investments will be funded, he added: “The planned investment will be paid for jointly by taxpayers and passengers.” 

More trains arriving on time and reduced overcrowding were highlighted as key investments by Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith. However, he also voiced concern regarding value for money in the next control period.

Smith said: “Passengers will want to see the Government avoid above-inflation fare increases. These investments must be delivered in a cost-effective way.”

Maggie Simpson, RFG policy manager said: “This package of investment will support future growth and enable freight operators and customers to develop ever more efficient and innovative services.” 

And the ORR stated: “We now need to ensure that the plan is affordable.” It added that achieving the best possible value for money was “fundamental”. 

RMT general secretary Bob Crow claimed that the projects had been discussed for years and that the industry could not afford further delays. He said: “What we need is investment in rail today not yet another political promise of jam tomorrow.”

Vernon Barker, managing director of First UK Rail division commented: “This is an unprecedented level of investment in the rail network and will do much to increase capacity and reliability.”

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