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Rail firms call for funding review

Train companies have called for a “swift and rigorous” review of rail spending ahead of expected cuts.

Close study of projects is needed to ensure investment is made in the best interests of taxpayers, according to the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc).

Atoc said it accepts a review of planned projects, including £8bn due to be invested in the network over the next four years, is necessary because of the “unprecedented situation in the public finances”.

But it suggested train companies should work with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to assess infrastructure investment before the autumn spending review.

In a letter to transport minister Theresa Villiers, Atoc proposed judging projects more closely to decide whether they will improve services for customers and increase revenue, thereby reducing the cost to the taxpayer.

Long-term reforms of the way the railways are run are also necessary, according to Atoc, such as adopting a more commercially minded approach to drive down costs.

Atoc’s chief executive Michael Roberts said: “Train companies still believe firmly that the system of planning rail finance and projects over multiple-year periods is vital to sound long-term planning. But the unprecedented situation in the public finances means that, on balance, a swift and rigorous review is in the best interests of taxpayers, passengers and the railway.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The spending review will look at all areas of departmental expenditure in terms of affordability and value for money with this process expected to be completed by October 2010.

“We welcome input from all relevant stakeholders, including Atoc.”

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