The government continues to support the wasteful and discredited rail franchising system. We must do betterby Andy McDonald / January 25, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
In rhetoric, if not in practice, the Conservative Party is showing signs of realising that borrowing to invest has some benefits. In the United States, even Donald Trump has seen the importance of investing in the economy. I am delighted to see these late adopters following the lead set by the Labour Party.
Investment in transport was a key pillar of our manifesto last year. We recognise how the sector will transform and decarbonise the economy. Transport isn’t just about mobility and tonne-miles freighted. It enables access to jobs, training and other opportunities.
For all Chris Grayling’s upbeat talk, Britain languishes near the bottom of the international tables of infrastructure investment, particularly transport. As recently as 2014, UK spending on transport was a quarter of the OECD average.
Despite high-profile projects such as Crossrail and HS2 the government is not investing enough and its regulatory oversight of Network Rail has been weak. Last summer saw swathes of vital rail electrification upgrades in the Midlands, north, Wales and southwest cancelled. Promises were made and those promises were broken. Not only was this decision bad news for those areas, but it entrenched the existing inequalities in regional transport spending which are so damaging to those regions’ economies.
The government continues to support the wasteful and discredited rail franchising system. The recent multi-billion-pound taxpayer bailout of Stagecoach on the East Coast mainline last November bears testimony to this. And the private sector financing of new Intercity Express rolling stock resulted in the UK buying the most expensive trains in the world.