The Commons transport select committee has urged the government to revive three electrification projects which were scrapped last year.
The public scrutiny body is calling for the Midland Mainline, Great Western Mainline and Lakes Line electrification schemes, which were cancelled in July 2017, to be “recategorised as pending, and placed in the enhancements pipeline for further development and design work”.
While it said it fully supported the development of emerging train traction technologies – such as new battery and hydrogen technology – the committee said that comparative cost/benefit analysis should be carried out first.
Campaign to Electrify Britain’s Railway spokesperson Noel Dolphin said: ‘‘We have campaigned against electrification cancellations by the government, as the worst type of short-termism.
“If the government accepted and implemented the findings of the report, it would be a huge boost for the whole of the UK.”
The findings were published in its Rail Infrastructure Investment report which covers all aspects of rail funding including the earlier, scrapped, electrification schemes, new third-party funding initiatives and the prospective pipeline for enhancement projects.
A report published by the committee welcomes Network Rail’s new Control Period 6 (CP6 2019 to 2024) funding strategy, saying the greater focus on maintenance and renewals is “necessary and welcome”.
But, as a consequence of splitting out enhancement projects from the five year cycle, it calls on the government to mitigate the risk of a “severe slowdown in strategically necessary rail enhancements”.
It warns that a lack of detail about projects available for investment and concerns in the sector about the process itself appear likely to dissuade third parties from submitting proposals.
“The Department is relying heavily on market-led proposals (MLPs) to deliver new enhancement projects,” says the report. “It does not appear to have a ‘plan B’ should MLPs not materialise as hoped.
“Our judgement is that there is a substantial risk that the rush to deliver poorly planned and scoped enhancement schemes in the current period will be replaced by a different problem – a slowdown or interregnum in new, strategically necessary projects.”
It says this would particularly disadvantage regions which had suffered from underinvestment and further damage confidence within the supply chain.
The committee said it wants to see full transparency of enhancement projects for each stage of the enhancement pipeline and it wants the government to publish its guidance on MLPs before the end of 2018.
The report also calls for the government to be more specific about how it intends to rebalance the disparity in spending across the regions.
It said regions such as the North East and South West had experienced relative underfunding and needed a “clear sense” of what the government is trying to achieve and ways it could judge its success.
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