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Government rail plans not ambitious enough, say MPs

The Transport select committee has slammed the government’s Railways White Paper for its lack of ambition and on its failure to come up with plans for a new high speed rail link.

The report takes the government to task for its "lack of vision" on high speed rail and also calls for a major management shake up at Network Rail after the engineering works overrun that caused chaos for travelers at Liverpool Street Station over the New Year.

To award Network Rail’s senior managers with huge financial bonuses after passengers had been "humiliated" by the "fiascos" was "highly extraordinary".

The report states "The railways are increasingly popular and the 30 year strategy has the potential to provide a tremendous sense of purpose and direction. However, the White Paper lacks vision and represents a missed opportunity."

The select committee report also calls for Network Rail to review the High Level Output Specifications (HLOS) for new rail infrastructure in the light of soaring price of oil and calls for the operator to bring more of its strategic resources such as overhead engineering staff back in-house.

Network Rail chief executive Ian Coucher rejected the criticism.

"We are disappointed by the comments in the Transport Select Committee report which do no reflect the pivotal role Network Rail has played in turning around the railway from the mess inherited from Railtrack.

"The railway is now performing at the highest levels of punctuality ever recorded…. The cost of running the railway has been cut by over £2bn under Network Rail’s stewardship and investment is at record levels. Since New Year we have invested over £2bn applying the lessons from the unacceptable over-runs at New Year."

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