Combined Authority recommends overhaul of rail investment planning

The process for planning and delivering improvements to the rail network requires an urgent overhaul if it is to encourage investment and support economic growth, according to evidence presented to Parliament by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

In its submission to the Commons Transport Committee’s inquiry into rail infrastructure investment, the Combined Authority argues the current system of five-year ‘control periods’ is too short and that clear commitments to fund and deliver improvements over the long term are needed to give confidence to the private sector to invest in projects creating jobs and growth.

Disconnect

The Combined Authority warns of a growing disconnect between planned rail infrastructure improvements and service upgrades agreed in franchise agreements, with delays to projects designed to increase capacity having a knock-on effect on plans to introduce additional services.

Highlighting research showing the gulf between transport investment in Yorkshire and London, the submission sets out the case for reforming the evaluation process for transport projects, which currently disadvantages the North of England, by taking into account the wider regeneration benefits of any investment.

Important improvements

Cllr Keith Wakefield, West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee chair, said: “More than three million journeys a week are made on the West Yorkshire public transport network and rail is essential in allowing people from across our communities to access jobs, education and services.

“Through the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises we have secured important improvements including additional services and longer modern trains to cater for rising use of the rail network and help promote economic growth.

“However we have also seen how the disconnect between rail infrastructure improvements and the negotiation of franchise agreements has led to delays in the delivery of promised improvements to services. Uncertainty continues over whether a number of timetable improvements expected in May will be delivered in full.

“The process for planning and implementing changes to the rail network is inflexible, centralised and process heavy and is increasingly contradictory as it remains highly centralised while other powers over transport are devolved.

“It is time for a fresh look at how we plan and fund rail network improvements to ensure our communities see the improvements they need and to give the private sector the long-term confidence to invest.”

Read the West Yorkshire Combined Authority submission.

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