Transport secretary Chris Grayling has told rail industry officials that it is up to them to find a solution to the current “boom and bust” funding cycle.
Speaking at the Rail Industry Association (RIA) annual conference, Grayling said that it is “unrealistic” to think the government alone can create a more steady work stream for the industry.
Instead Grayling said that the rail industry should “showcase your talent” in order to win more contracts abroad to “fill in the gaps” in government funding.
It comes after the rail industry unanimously called on the government to end the current climate of ‘‘boom and bust’’ funding.
Of 120 rail bosses surveyed by independent polling company ComRes, 99% identified “peaks and troughs in rail funding” with two-thirds saying that the term “boom and bust” accurately describes the current government funding model.
While four out of five respondents said this funding model has a negative impact on their business, 96% said the government “must do more to smooth out peaks and troughs in rail spending in future”.
However, Grayling hit back saying that the industry should have “bigger and broader ambitions” than relying on government support.
“I don’t want unnecessary fluctuations to have a negative impact on the rail industry. However, you cannot expect the UK government to provide a stable business flow all of the time, and you shouldn’t expect it,” Grayling said. “You should have bigger and broader ambitions than relying on the UK government for work.”
He added: “This industry has to be a global industry and it has to be winning contracts across the whole world.
“There isn’t an absence of work or funding from the government around the industry. However government cannot manage every piece of work to happen at an exact level.
“It is about doing what we can do on a busy network while keeping it going. To get rid of an unequal workflow it has to be about international business filling in the gaps.”
Speaking at the RIA annual conference, RIA chief executive Darren Caplan said: “It is clear from this new poll that the ‘boom and bust’ rail business leaders are facing in rail funding stops them from investing or hiring new staff and, in the case of SMEs, jeopardises their ability to survive.
“It also adds up to 30% to the cost of rail infrastructure work, making the railway more expensive for passengers, taxpayers, and the Treasury alike.”
He added: “This new polling is further evidence, as if it were needed, that all parties need to redouble their efforts to end ‘boom and bust’ in rail funding once and for all.”
ComRes Associate Director of Transport James Rentoul added: “These results clearly demonstrate the reality of peaks and troughs in UK rail sector spending for the supply chain.
“They illustrate the negative impact this has on these businesses, particularly on the people who work for them.
“Those who see large peaks and troughs are more likely than others to report a negative impact on their business, and more likely to say they have had to freeze recruitment or make redundancies.”
Like what you’ve read? To receive New Civil Engineer’s daily and weekly newsletters click here.