Cuts watch #35: new trains under review
The railways look set to be hit by cuts to planned rolling stock improvements, plus fare rises and a looming row over bonuses.
A National Audit Office report concluded that Department for Transport plans
“…would not deliver as much extra capacity as originally specified, although the taxpayer would have provided nearly as much financial support (£1.2 billion over the period 2009-14) to train companies as originally envisaged.”
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has used the report as support for his decision to order a full review of the DfT procurement programme for 1,300 new carriages, reports the Guardian. A contract for 1,000 carriages for the new Thameslink line has also been frozen.
Meanwhile, a row may be brewing over Network Rail bonuses, due to be announced at the end of June. NR claims that improvements to punctuality are evidence of improved performance by the company. This comes as NR struggles to meet the efficiency savings set for it by the Office of the Rail Regulator, which has already seen maintenance budgets slashed and plans for large scale redundancies among maintenance workers. It is not yet clear how NR plans to manage the additional £100m cut to their budget announced as part of the 24 May package.
Finally, fares look set to rise significantly next year, following the “RPI plus 1” formula used to determine the levels of price rises for regulated fares. Next year’s fares will be set with reference to this July’s level of RPI: with this currently running at over 5 per cent, passengers are likely to see ticket prices go up by at least 6 per cent.