Wednesday, 19 April 2017

GE2017 - Rail and the Manifestos

This from Mystic Maureen...

As the nation leaps into action ready for yet another thrilling polling campaign (Shurely "runs around screaming, not again!" Ed) , spare a thought for all those now tasked with rapidly drawing up Party Manifestos.  

It will be interesting to see how each party balances Brexit with the wider issues facing the country, and in particular their policies relating to transport and rail.

So what might we expect to see?

The Conservatives: Expect much of the manifesto to be taken up with Brexit and future export opportunities (Rail Sector Deal please BEIS, if you're listening). Of greater interest to the operational railway will be any movement on the rail reforms currently being developed at Marsham Street and expected to be outlined in the Rail Strategy (currently being penned by Bernadette Kelly, before she takes up her new role as Perm Sec). Eye wonders whether Grayling will lobby hard to poke a stick in the hornet's nest by proposing a concession for a Network Rail Route (or Routes)? Despite the unpopularity of 'rail privatisation' this must be tempting, with the Tories anticipated to win a landslide majority. However, lack of parliamentary time may mean that only a vertically integrated East West Railway makes the final cut?

Of course, elections aren’t just about choosing a Government, but also about choosing an opposition, so what about the other parties? (Aren't you prejudging the 8th June results somewhat? Ed)

The SNP: The ScotsNats position is fairly clear, with a desire for a publically owned railway north of the border likely to  feature strongly.  Will Scottish Ministers use the opportunity to pre-annouce rail investment plans for CP6?  A rail upgrade of the Highland Main Line could well be a vote winner?

The LibDems: Liberal Demcrats will be keen to retake the centre ground (From whom! Ed) so expect to see a focus on soft Brexit and trade links making best use of rail.  Domestically, something on part time season tickets and fares seems probable, and would they be brave enough to commit to a continued role for the guard?  The latter would certainly be a vote winner on Southern’s patch and will place tanks firmly on the lawn of many target constituencies currently coloured blue on the Railway Political Map.

The Labour Party: Labour's policy on rail renationalisation is both well understood and electorally popular, so we should expect to see that headlined.  Could we also see broader action on air quality measures, drawing on Sadiq Khan’s popular initiatives in London? A commitment to reinstating rail electrification would also play well in heartlands outside London, where there are concerns once again that all the investment is being poured into London and the South East. A public commitment to resurrecting or accelerating wiring the Midland Main Line and Transpennine routes might also place some significant pressure on the Tories in marginal seats?

Whatever the result on June 8th, the railways will not escape ever increasing scrutiny.

Contributions, informed or otherwise, welcome at the usual address.

Rail Sector Deal - the PM offers some clues

Word reaches Eye that the great and the good are meeting tonight to discuss what a Rail Sector Deal might look like.

The original announcement of possible Sector Deals in January, managed to, ahem... overlook Rail, in favour of:

  • Life sciences
  • Ultra low emission vehicles
  • Industrial digitalisation
  • Nuclear industry; and 
  • the Creative industries
No matter!

Happily Number 10's original announcement made clear that:

"This is not an exclusive list and the government is prepared to work with any sector which can organise behind strong leadership to address shared challenges and opportunities".

So far so good.

And with almost perfect timing for tonight's RDG/RSG discussions, Theresa May made clear at today's PMQs that the Industrial Strategy would be regionally focused "tailored to the needs of particular parts of the country".

Surely the PM had the rail industry in mind, with places like Derby, Doncaster and the North West having vibrant rail clusters with the capabilities to become global centres of excellence!

One can only hope, therefore, that said 'particular parts of the country' are well represented at tonight's dinner?