The Department for Transport (DfT) has published a list of rail enhancement projects in its updated Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP).
When it announced its funding of Network Rail in Control Period 6 (CP6 – 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2024), enhancements, other than those already underway, were not included. In future, Network Rail would have to ‘bid’ for those and the DfT and Treasury would decide which ones to fund.
Provision was made in the CP6 settlement for funding to prepare the business cases and bids for enhancements, but it would not be a forgone conclusion that any particular scheme would be accepted and funded.
Pulling major projects out of the control period cycle would allow each one to be funded properly, with thorough planning, and so avoid the mistakes made on schemes such as Great Western Electrification when certain stages were rushed to hit CP deadlines, resulting in inadequate preparation and the ensuing cost and time overruns.
Rail Engineer looked at the new method of planning in March 2018, publishing a list of some of the candidate schemes for DfT finding for CP6. Some of these were carry-overs from CP5 that would continue, others were developed during CP5 for implementation in CP6, while still more were just plans that would be fully developed after the start of CP6.
Despite that list, which came from Network Rail, the DfT has, until now, refused to confirm which projects were going ahead. This caused some consternation amongst the supply chain, which wanted to ensure that skills and resources would be available when required.
There is therefore some relief that the DfT has now published its list of those favoured projects. Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “This is a really positive development announced today by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and we welcome this timely intervention at the Transport Select Committee.
“The Railway Industry Association and its members have been calling for a list of enhancements projects for well over a year, and that is why we launched our ‘Show Us the Rail Enhancements’ campaign in the autumn. So, it’s great news that the new Ministerial team has acted swiftly on taking office to deliver on this.
“This comprehensive list of enhancements will now give rail businesses some more confidence to plan, hire and invest in preparation for upcoming work. And it will help ensure we can get to work to build an enhanced world-class railway in the coming years. We and our members will now examine the list further, and work with the DfT and wider rail supply community to deliver these upgrade projects.”
Schemes go through four decision gateways before the funding is approved for Network Rail to deliver them:
Decision to Initiate takes the scheme into the pipeline and unlocks funding for a Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC).
Decision to Develop builds on the SOBC and authorises development work towards a single viable option and to put together the Outline Business Case.
Decision to Design follows the Outline Business Case and permits technical development to ensure that the desired outputs can be delivered through the option being progressed.
Decision to Deliver passes the project over to Network Rail for implementation.
The DfT’s latest RNEP report includes the following projects under development:
Stage 1 – Determine
23 projects have passed the Decision to Initiate and are under development. Plans to provide a permanent solution to passenger congestion at Clapham Junction, for Wigan to Bolton Electrification and to improve capacity and performance on the Castlefield cross-Manchester Corridor are on this list.
Stage 2 – Develop
A further 22 projects are currently under development. These include the Western Rail Access to Heathrow, a new station at Cambridge South and the redevelopment of Euston Conventional Station.
Stage 3 – Design
A total of 13 projects are currently being designed with a view of taking them to the final DfT gateway of the Decision to Deliver. The Transpennine Route Upgrade falls into this category, as does East West Rail Phase 2.
If a scheme is entirely funded from other sources, it does not need to go through the RNEP process. However, even if it is only part-funded by the DfT, it does.
And project that has already passed the decision to Deliver, which includes all the part-finished schemes from CP5, do not appear on the DfT’s list but are instead on Network Rail’s Enhancements Delivery Plan.