Railway sector warns Sunak that delays to proposed reforms risk investment
The rail industry has urged the government not to delay proposed legislation that will mark the start of its rail reform plans.
The plea comes just two months after the Birmingham to Crewe leg of HS2 was delayed by two years as part of efforts to reduce costs for the over-budget project.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, over 60 rail business leaders urged him not to delay the proposed rail reform plans too.
In May 2021, the government announced its plans for the biggest reform to the railway in three decades through the publication of the Plan for Rail.
It includes a proposal to create Great British Railways (GBR) – a planned state-owned public body that will oversee rail transport in Great Britain. It will replace Network Rail as the operator of rail infrastructure across all of Great Britain.
With the exception of services wholly within Scotland and Wales, it will also control the contracting of passenger train services, the setting of fares and timetables, and the collection of fare revenue.
But legislation is needed to create GBR, which has been delayed since the reform proposals were first published in 2021.
Rail business leaders have expressed concern that failure to legislate within the next Parliamentary session means the railway will have no clear direction.
This uncertainty about the future structure of the industry threatens a hiatus in key decisions being made, jeopardising progress with essential rail works, jobs, investment and business growth, and ultimately undermining services for passengers and freight customers, the letter warns.
Chief executive of the Rail Industry Association, Darren Caplan, said: “The Railway Industry Association and its rail supply members are simply asking Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to ensure the government gets on with the process of expediting its own legislation.
“Getting on with rail reform will help provide the certainty rail businesses need to invest, take on staff and develop their business plans, ultimately benefiting passenger and freight customers, and resulting in better value-for-money for taxpayers.
“However, failure to enact the GBR legislation means a delay to reform of at least 18 months, and possibly longer as we await the next General Election and then fresh Bills come forward in its aftermath. There would be a heightened risk of hiatus in rail investment if decisions get delayed as rail reform stalls.
“Some of the biggest names in the rail supply sector have signed this letter to the Prime Minister, to urge him to ensure the required legislation is passed. We ask Rishi Sunak to take note of the letter, if he wants to have a world-class rail system in the UK, which connects the country and delivers on his own agendas to level-up, decarbonise, and encourage industries which can give a major boost to economic growth.”
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