The fact that investment in schemes to integrate rail with other transport modes had not always “matched the Government’s rhetoric” was “unacceptable”, a report by MPs has said.
The Government had to ensure that investment in rail took into account good integration with other modes of transport,” the report from the House of Commons Transport Committee said.
Committee chairman Louise Ellman MP said “It’s paramount we do not deprive future generations of a lasting legacy of good transport services. Investments made now or in the near future should reflect long-term needs of the economy and society”.
The recent strategy to increase the use of smart and integrated ticketing outside London was a “step in the right direction” the committee said.
But the Government had to “make faster progress in this area” as it was the only way to “achieve a genuinely convenient and accessible public transport system for passengers which presents a real alternative to the car”.
Many parts of the rail network were “creaking at the seams” following unprecedented passenger growth over the past 15 years, the committee said.
The report added it was essential that the billions of pounds required for a new high-speed rail line did not detract from investment in the existing railway.
The committee said that after 2014, priority should be given to addressing rail capacity constraints around Manchester and further electrification of the network - particularly the Midland Main Line between London and Sheffield - should also be given top priority.
The report also recommended the Government should take a more pro-active policy position that encourages schemes to bring old lines back into service or to open either new lines or stations.
The committee welcomes the scale of the current £35 billion investment programme, which covers the period 2009-2014, much of which is to be spent on increasing capacity in London.
It acknowledged, however, that investment levels from 2014 to 2019 may not be as generous.
Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: “”We greatly support the committee’s assertion that investment in high-speed rail must not be at the cost of continuing investment in the rest of the network.”
“Train companies are very pleased that MPs have supported our proposals to build new smaller lines across the country, to connect more communities to the rail network.”
The Committee also recommended:
- The Government should take a more pro-active policy position that encourages schemes to bring old lines back into service or to open either new lines or stations. Government should not only encourage private investment through the franchise system but fund schemes forecast to enjoy high passenger patronage directly through the national rail investment programme.
- Ministers must set out their rolling stock plans as soon as possible to provide the industry with certainty about future capabilities.
- Freight investment in the medium-term should, at the very least, be maintained at current levels and the Government should continue to encourage the expansion of the network.
- The methodology applied by Government to prioritise schemes needs to become more dynamic to integrate wider social, environmental and economic considerations, including the impact of transport investment on the GDP of regions.