Whilst the rail industry seems to have accepted by now that the long awaited Williams Review will be delayed, yet again, this time thanks to purdah, it would seem it is not the only casualty. With thanks to COVID and now with purdah staring next week, the Integrated Rail Plan looks to also be delayed until after the results of the various local elections in early May.
The plan, which was originally due for publication by the end of 2020, promises to take into account value for money, levelling up, affordability and deliverability considerations when looking as some key issues affecting rail transport in the midlands and the north:
1. How to integrate HS2 and wider transport plans to deliver benefits more quickly. This part of the plan is to pay particular attention to HS2 Phase 2b, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Midlands Rail hub, amongst others;
2. How to achieve cost savings in relation to HS2;
3. Consideration of the best delivery models; and
4. How to deliver connectivity with Scotland (articular relevant in light of the announcement on 7th March that Scotland would essentially be renationalising delivery of its rail operations).
So much hinges on the outcomes of this Plan, along with the Williams Review (although many would say we know where that is heading), that there is a definite air that things are about to change for the rail industry. But without the certainty that publication of both of these reports will bring (be that good or bad news) an industry so impacted by the pandemic is still very much in limbo, unable and unwilling to press forward on new projects and ideas. Let's hope that along with the lifting of lock down and the return to something which resembles normality, we can get publication of these important reviews back on track (sorry not sorry) and enable the sector to pick up steam again...(I'll get my coat...)
The publication of the government’s eagerly-awaited Integrated Rail Plan will be delayed until after the local elections due to purdah rules. The plan will set out how HS2 Phase 2b will work alongside other schemes including Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Rail Hub and the Trans-Pennine Upgrade. It was earmarked for publication “early in 2021”. However, rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris has confirmed that the Department for Transport (DfT) will not have time to publish the report before purdah starts later this month. It means the report will not be published before the elections take place on May 6