British trade association for railway suppliers the Railway Industry Association (RIA) is urging the UK Government to set specific timeframes for the industry’s recovery plans after Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered a speech on economic recovery earlier today.
In his speech, Johnson had in fact promised £5bn of capital investment projects, a first step in the government’s plans to rebuild the economy after the coronavirus pandemic.
With its ‘New Deal’ recovery plan, the government aims to upgrade infrastructure, including the rail network, and availability of skills to fuel the country’s economic recovery after the national GDP shrank by 2.2% due to the pandemic.
“We will build, build, build. Build back better, build back greener, build back faster and to do that at the pace that this moment requires,” Johnson explained.
But the plan faced a backlash from members of the UK rail industry. “The Prime Minister’s speech today urged the UK to ‘build, build, build’ to ensure an economic recovery following the coronavirus outbreak, and it was good to see plans to unblock the Manchester bottleneck mentioned,” said RIA chief executive Darren Caplan.
“However, whilst the speech set the right tone, railway suppliers will be disappointed by the lack of specific new rail projects the government plans to speed up.”
While £1.5bn will go to hospitals, including maintenance works and improving A&E capacity, £100m will be allocated to 29 projects in the road network.
Of this amount, £10m of design and development funding will be given to resolve capacity and reliability problems in the Manchester rail bottleneck, which is still causing delays to the north of England’s railway network.
The prime minister has also promised £900m for local growth projects in England, which will be allocated in the next two years to 101 towns. According to the plan, each town will receive between £500,000 and £1m to spend on projects such as improvements in transports and high streets.
Similar funding will be destined to improve infrastructure – especially rail, air and sea links – in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Yet according to RIA, the strategy lacks specific directives when it comes to rail. “The railway industry will have a key role to play in any economic recovery, and so we urge the government to announce in the coming weeks a clear pipeline of accelerated work it will support across the country to deliver economic growth, investment and jobs,” added Caplan.
“Suppliers need to see specific schemes with delivery timelines so they can plan and build their project teams, delivering a world-class rail network which benefits not just rail but the UK more widely, its economy and long-term connectivity.”