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2018 preview: Rail

Robert Gray

The next 12 months will prove to be a mixed year for the UK rail sector.

The successful completion of many long-term industry investments such as Thameslink and Crossrail will contrast against increasing budget challenges for new projects, bringing even greater need for innovation and collaboration.

As always there are a variety of budget challenges, but the most significant for 2018 will be the Network Rail CP5 shortfall, with the changeover to CP6 approaching in spring 2019.

Although some CP6 budget is being brought forward, the final settlement for CP6 is a major issue.

Gathering momentum

The UK rail industry will be charged with helping provide better value for money on projects and investments to ameliorate the budget challenges that lie ahead.

The Thameslink and Crossrail projects will be largely completed in 2018 and the Great North Rail Project will continue to gather pace.

HS2’s development will also gain momentum, with the third hybrid bill for phase 2b going before parliament in September 2019, following consultation on the technical scope and methodology to be used in the environmental and equality impact assessments.

“Transport for London will be responsible for delivering the vision that will reshape transport in the capital over the next 25 years”

Network Rail’s Digital Railway initiative will begin to influence more re-signalling schemes but will need to find innovative ways to enable widespread adoption of digital technologies such as the European Train Control System, connected driver advisory system and traffic management.

There are also other new schemes in the pipeline, such as Crossrail 2 and East West Rail. These projects will test the industry’s creativity, given the forecast funding constraints.

Measurable benefits

At the same time, each rail enhancement project – according to the new memorandum of understanding between the Department for Transport and Network Rail – will need to be supported by a business case, in line with Treasury guidance. These are expected to have clear and measurable passenger or freight benefits.

Elsewhere, 2018 will see the publication of the mayor of London’s transport strategy, which will kick-start a programme designed to make London a greener, healthier and more prosperous city, with the ultimate goal of being non-reliant on government subsidy.

Transport for London will be responsible for delivering the vision that will reshape transport in the capital over the next 25 years.

Robert Gray is principal account leader in Mott MacDonald’s rail business

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