Rail industry suppliers frustrated by government’s “lack of clarity” on rail projects

The Railway Industry Association (RIA) has called on the government to set out its plans to enhance the UK railway network. RIA chief executive Darren Caplan raised his concerns that, despite calls last week by National Infrastructure Commission chair Sir John Armitt for a 30-year perspective on infrastructure funding, the government is not giving visibility on rail enhancement projects for even the next five years. 

This comes after the government’s own 'outsourcing playbook' in February called for all central government departments to publish their commercial pipelines to help suppliers understand the long-term demand for services and prepare their responses to contract opportunities.

Speaking at the Railtex event in Birmingham this week, Caplan said: “The rail industry faces continued uncertainty caused by the government’s unwillingness to make public its list of projects to enhance the UK railway network. It is especially apposite that at a time when John Armitt has just called for a 30-year infrastructure pipeline, rail cannot even commit to the five years of Control Period 6.

“Whilst RIA welcomes any process which ensures rail enhancement projects can be considered and decisions made on them promptly, the supply sector needs more than a process – it needs projects to plan and compete for, ultimately bringing about the more efficient, more effective, value-for-money and customer-focused railway network we are all trying to build.

“Rail suppliers tell us that there simply is no visibility of upcoming enhancement schemes other than those already known from CP5, with the knock-on effect that they now reduce the levels of investment and employ fewer new workers. Given the government’s own advice of ensuring transparency for its suppliers, set out in its recently-published outsourcing playbook, there really is now an urgent need for the DfT to reveal what rail projects it is planning over the coming five year period.”

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