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Rail minister calls for cheaper transport projects

A key MP has warned contractors to become more efficient at delivering transport schemes.

Transport under secretary Claire Perry told delegates at NCE’s UK Rail 2015 conference in London yesterday to “sharpen your project-cost pencils”.

The Devizes MP said that although the government had pledged to invest £100bn over this Parliament, it was looking for maximum value in return.

“We have to use the next five years to become more efficient,” she said.

“Although this is a great time to be part of the rail engineering industry, as far as this government’s concerned, it’s not boom time.

“Every pound we spend over the next five years must be made to count.

“That’s the responsibility of the government when it allocates the money, and it’s also the responsibility of infrastructure professionals when you use the money.

“So your task is to sharpen your project-cost pencils. And treat taxpayers’ money as if it is your own – which after all, it is,” she told delegates.

Speaking on National Women in Engineering Day, Perry called for more work from companies to recruit female staff.

“I urge the rail infrastructure industry to do whatever it takes to open the door to women,” she said.

“I am sure there is more the industry itself can do.

“Perhaps by signing up your organisation to the national Inspiring Women campaign, which has already sent 15,000 women into schools to talk about their careers.

“Or by taking a hard look at what puts women off from careers in rail infrastructure, and making urgent changes.”

Perry also backed High Speed 2 chairman David Higgins’ rallying cry in NCE against the “disease” of fatalism.

“I believe that the cause of the fatalistic disease is that we have come to accept a sticking-plaster approach to our national infrastructure,” said Perry.

“Somewhere along the line, the birthplace of Brunel became the country of make-do and mend.

“Over the next five years, we have to cure this disease.

“So, as David Higgins pointed out, while others are talking, debating the pros and cons, we need you to be doing.

“Quietly carrying on, defying the doubters and the ditherers.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • The three factors from which you can only pick two :

    Cheap / Quick / Properly.

    While there are very likely some areas where efficiencies can be made, the "sticking plaster approach" has been adopted because government has been reluctant to invest in ensuring a modern infrastructure. This is borne out by the fact that the Institution had to lobby for more investment in infrastructure.

    Perhaps if we had a Transport Undersecretary who had some experience of the technical aspects of the construction sector rather than those of one who appears to have worked in the financial sector only (as her entries on her own website at and on Wikipedia seem to indicate) then we would not have to deal with the problems of sound-bite politics.

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  • Laudable aims. But with costs representing 96% plus of price paid efficiency, the cost reduction that Caire Perry is calling for, can only come from working more efficiently. Industry cannot achieve on its own . We need frameworks with consistent, actual not promised, workloads so we can invest in process re-engineering, training and equipment.. We will also then be able to retain expertise and drive future continual improvement.

    Further simplification of procurement process and more collaborative working between All parties and stakeholders is also essential if WE are to make best use of the funding available in order to deliver not just a safe, efficient and effective railway but also optimise the social, economic and environmental benefits for the communities served.

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