The Railway Industry Association (RIA) and the Northern Rail Industry Leaders (NRIL) have criticised the UK Government’s decision to cut Transport for the North’s (TfN) 2021/2022 budget by 40%, from £10m to £6m.
Presented on 13 January at a TfN board meeting, the cuts will also bring about the cancellation of the contactless ticketing programme – the Integrated and Smart Travel Programme – which will likely lead to workforce reductions.
The RIA – the trade body for the UK rail supply community – said the uncertainty around TfN’s budget will damage rail suppliers.
“We crucially need to see the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan soon so members of the rail supply industry have the visibility they need to invest efficiently and effectively,” RIA chief executive Darren Caplan commented.
“The government’s ‘build back better’, green, levelling-up agenda needs to include rail, which will also help support thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of GVA at a time when the UK economy desperately needs its industrial sectors to boost growth, in all parts of the country.”
NRIL, which represents northern rail businesses, asked for clearer government policies.
“The North’s rail industry stands ready to deliver Transpennine Route Upgrade, HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, the digitalisation and decarbonisation of the network and much more, for the benefit of those who use the railway network,” added NRIL co-chairs Justin Moss and Mike Hulme.
“But these businesses do need [the UK Government] to be clear about its policies and intentions, so it is vital the Integrated Rail Plan is published as swiftly as possible. The greater the visibility for rail businesses, the more we can provide the region, in terms of efficient delivery, skills, innovation and investment.”
TfN board members expressed disappointment at the UK Government’s decision, saying these cuts will delay the north of England’s economic recovery, widening the economic gap with London and the south-east.
“Transport for the North’s Board has clearly indicated it’s disappointment and concern that, a time when the government’s levelling up agenda is needed most, funding is being cut, putting northern investment and jobs at risk,” said TfN finance director Iain Craven. “It falls substantially short of what we outlined the North would need to level-up infrastructure and accelerate benefits to the region.”
Craven also said that TfN will seek a meeting with UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.