NIC Commissioner Bridget Rosewell CBE has defended the work carried out by the National Infrastructure Commission for its Meeting the Rail Needs of the Midlands and North report, published last December and which was criticised for seeming to set projects against each other (RAIL 921).
Speaking at the National Rail Recovery Conference, organised by RAIL and with more than 1,500 registered delegates, Rosewell said: “In a world of constrained budgets you can’t do everything, so what do you do first?
“If you’re thinking about what you’re going to do first and what opens up the biggest opportunities for the economy, that for us was what we called the regional packages - those that prioritised links between close cities.”
She explained that NIC worked to a budget of £81 billion for rail, prepared as part of the National Infrastructure Assessment almost two years ago.
“When you looked at everything everyone wanted, it was not £81bn but £180bn at least, with its maximum optimacy bias. That was outside any funding envelope. There is a constraint on the amount of money we can absolutely spend - in the NIC’s budgets but also, I think, in reality.”
Rosewell told delegates: “We have been accused at the NIC of wanting to cancel the eastern leg of HS2. That is not what we said and certainly not what we meant. We meant actually prioritise the first steps into the East Midlands.”
Rosewell explained that the NIC looked at what was the sensible thing to do, adding that there remained uncertainties “about the north bit of the eastern leg of HS2 - how would that link into Sheffield”, and having to consider the consequences of disrupting the M1 motorway for a lengthy period.
The result from NIC’s studies found that “the best bang for buck was focusing on east-west links, and not as much north-south links,” she said.
- Full coverage of the National Rail Recovery Conference will appear in RAIL 926, on sale digitally March 6 and in print on March 10. You can still register to watch any of the NRRC sessions on-demand within the next three months, by going to www.nationalrailconference.com