10 Conclusion |
85. We welcome the record levels of spending in
the rail network to 2019. Increasing capacity on the classic network
will help to meet the current and growing demand for rail services;
and the electrification programme will make journeys quicker and
more reliable, as well as reducing the environmental impact of
rail travel. We heard that the Northern Hub programme will deliver
over £4 billion of wider economic benefits to the North.
Such criteria for the allocation of spending will aid the Department
in assessing bids for future investment, and ensure a fair proportion
of investment in different regions of the country. Treasury statistics
have shown that there is a large variation in the level of public
spending on rail across different regions of the country.
86. To maximise the benefits of the increased
spending it should be clear how it fits into a longer-term strategic
vision for the railways. While the control periods are a useful
management tool, they need to be matched by the publication of
a long-term plan, which brings together plans for franchising,
rolling stock and enhancements work, and considers the rail network
as a whole. Connectivity between the high speed and classic network
should be prioritised, as should links to ports and airports.
This plan should be linked to an "outturn statement"
for each control period, helping to track spending, provide greater
transparency around benefits realisation. This will strengthen
the accountability of Network Rail and the ORR to Government and
Parliament, as it will be clear if projected outcomes have materialised.
Given the concerns we have expressed about Network Rail's capacity
to deliver the CP5 programme, it is vital for passengers and taxpayers
that it is held to account in this way.
87. A longer-term look at rail should be part
of a wider route-based transport strategy that considers road
and rail together, and recognises the interconnections between
different modes of transport. This approach would enable the Government
to consider whether proposed investments, in road or rail, offer
the most effective and efficient way to improve connectivity and
boost economic growth. As we have previously recommended, working
in this way would allow for consultation with local authorities
and local enterprise partnerships, for the benefit of rail passengers
and road users, and taxpayers in general.