The government made clear its preference for rail investment over road improvements in last week’s spending review.
Network Rail spending to 2014 survived with funding almost intact, along with London’s Crossrail and key Tube upgrades.
Chancellor George Osborne confirmed that Network Rail would get £14bn over the four years of the review period. This matches the amount already earmarked for the track operator to spend between now and 2014.
The rail infrastructure operator and owner’s direct grant spending for 2009 to 2014 is £24bn. Around £14bn remains to be handed over by government and this is equal to the rail spending pledge by Osborne.
“Control Period 4 has not been reopened,” said a Network Rail spokesman, “although there are a few tweaks.”
“The £100M cut in rail spending announced in the emergency budget and relating to station enhancements has been increased to a cut of £185M.”
Many major projects were name checked as benefiting from the sustained rail spend, including Birmingham New Street, London King’s Cross, Reading and Gatwick Airport stations.
The £5.5bn Thameslink project was absent from Osborne’s speech.A detailed announcement backing the scheme is expected from transport secretary Philip Hammond in the next few weeks. It is likely that the purchase of £1bn of new rolling stock for Thameslink will be confirmed, and its old rolling stock would then be moved to run on the electrified Northern Hub - between Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and Blackpool - funding for which has also been confirmed.
Complex reconfiguration work at London Bridge for the final phase of the Thameslink programme is also expected to be given the green light, although NCE understands that the programme will be stretched. Work on this crucial section of Thameslink is due to start in the next rail spending control period after 2014. It is “fully expected to go ahead”, said a spokesman, but the programme “may be moved to the right a bit”, he added.
Crossrail will go ahead “in its entirety” and spending on upgrading the London Underground network “will be protected”, confirmed Osborne.
However, Crossrail will be delivered a year late in a bid to save money and protect the full scope of the scheme from government spending cuts.
In a statement, the Department for Transport (DfT) said it had identified “substantial, engineering led” savings by lengthening the delivery programme by around a year.
Crossrail is now set to be introduced in phases. “Crossrail will … be doing further work to optimise the scheme’s value for money, including reviewing the way in which services come into operation across the route to ensure that Crossrail services commence in a resilient and robust way,” said the DfT statement.
“As a result, the funding envelope for the project will be reduced by around £1bn, while the scope of the project remains unaltered. We now expect the project to cost no more than £14.5bn.”
London mayor Boris Johnson, who had been working on the new plan with the government and Crossrail, said that “improved station and engineering solutions and a more efficient construction timetable” would see the central - mainly tunnelled - section delivered in 2018, with a phased introduction of the remaining sections.
Crossrail chairman Terry Morgan said the decision “removes any remaining doubt” about the future and scope of Crossrail.
Following Osborne’s announcement, the DfT declared it would spend £750M on high speed rail over the next four years. “This would benefit the economy nationwide and provide a step change in Britain’s transport infrastructure,” it said in a statement.
Johnson has also secured funding for Tube upgrades. Osborne told Parliament that “key” lines would be upgraded for the 21st century.
The Highways Agency’s budget for major projects, capital maintenance and enhancements has been halved to £4bn over the next four years. Its current business plan for 2010/11 will see it spend £2.7bn on major improvements and maintaining the network.
The DfT has identified eight schemes to cancel, collectively worth over £1.3bn. They include three on the A21, plus the A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton scheme. The future of the Managed Motorways programme was also uncertain. The DfT has given the go-ahead for three schemes - the M4/M5 north of Bristol and the M62 between junctions 25 and 30, which were in tranche one and due to start this year. The other scheme is the M1 between junctions 28 and 31, which was in tranche two of the programme to begin construction by 2015. The remaining tranche one schemes have yet to start, and none of the other four tranche two schemes was mentioned.
Industry sources told NCE that contractors lined up for the work will be briefed on the future of their schemes in mid-November.
While there was good news for the new Mersey Gateway bridge and a handful of other new schemes - including improvements to the A11 and A23 - there were further cancellations.
Seven schemes were specifically singled out as being unlikely to receive funding in the current review period: the £1bn A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton scheme; the £120M A21 Kippings Cross to Lamberhurst; the £86M A19 Moor Farm scheme; the £27M A19 Seaton Burn interchange; the £40M A21 Baldslow interchange; the A21 Flimwell to Robertsbridge; the A1 Leeming to Barton improvement; and the A47 Blofield to North Burlingham.
More was due to be revealed by Hammond as NCE went to press.