Investing in the railway - Transport Contents

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.

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Prepared 23 January 2015