Union backing for Transport Committee proposals

16 February 2010

ASLEF has backed calls by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee (TSC) for wider electrification of rail and more efforts to address capacity problems in the north - and shares its concerns that investment in new infrastructure must not detract from the development of the existing network.

‘The Committee has got it spot on,’ said union general secretary Keith Norman. ‘The Department for Transport (DfT) needs to act on these points urgently – especially in the case of investment in freight. It’s no good the DfT simply saying it supports the expansion of the network – it needs to offer leadership, guidance and incentives.’

The main points in the TSC announcement are

· Investment priority over the coming decades should be wider electrification and addressing capacity problems across the north of the country, notably in Manchester

· This investment must not detract from investment in the ‘classic’ rail network

· The current £35 billion investment programme is welcome but much is to be spent on capacity in the capital through projects such as Thameslink and Crossrail

· A more pro-active policy position should be taken, encouraging bringing old lines back into service or opening new lines and station

· Rolling stock plans should be set out as soon as possible to allow planning

· Freight investment in the medium-term should at least be maintained at current levels and the government should continue to encourage the network’s expansion

· More attention should be paid to social, environmental and economic considerations for regional development when rail priorities are considered.

‘In view of a massive amount of agreement, it seems a bit churlish to pick up the Committee on one aspect,’ Keith says. ‘But it says that in addition to the national rail investment programme the government should ‘encourage private investment through the franchise system’. Frankly we’d prefer to see the back of the franchising system which we think only takes money out of the industry.’

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