The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure (APPGI) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) have published a new report, Accelerating the delivery of the Integrated Rail Plan, that presents a series of recommendations to help streamline the planning and delivery of the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP).
The report is the result of consultation on speeding up the delivery of the IRP, which confirmed £96 billion to deliver “faster, greener and more frequent rail services” to support towns and cities across the North and Midlands. The APPGI and the ICE sought insight from civil engineers, infrastructure professionals, policy thinkers, campaign groups and the wider transport community.
One of the central recommendations of the report is to take a more holistic view of transport planning and bring together disparate strategies into a central National Transport Strategy. Such a strategy is already in place in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and several other comparable countries.
Why England needs a National Transport Strategy
The post-Covid landscape, rising inflation and the need to consider parallel priorities, like levelling up and decarbonisation, has made the already complicated world of transport infrastructure planning and delivery even more complex.
Bringing together various strategies, including the IRP, the Transport Decarbonation Plan, the second Road Investment Strategy, the cycling and walking investment strategy, and the Union Connectivity Review into an integrated strategy would make it easier to ensure that transport projects’ outcomes align with long-term objectives, like climate adaptation and making travel more accessible.
Additionally, with transport projects facing competition for skills and investment, a national strategy could develop an evidence-based system of prioritisation. Clear priorities would help guard against political and economic uncertainty, factors which pose a threat to long-term infrastructure projects being delivered successfully.
The paper also highlights that under the current approach, separate strategies do not produce coherently planned, well-connected networks. An overarching strategy would help identify synergies between different schemes, optimise delivery, and improve user experience by considering passengers’ multi-modal, end-to-end journeys.
Speeding up rail delivery in the Midlands and North
Whether a National Transport Strategy is the way forward or not, the report makes it clear that streamlining the decision-making process and bringing clarity to the IRP project pipeline and spending schedule are key to accelerating the delivery of the IRP.
The five key recommendations from the report are:
- Develop the IRP into an approved pipeline of projects which industry, the supply line and other stakeholders can use to plan with certainty.
- Publish an integrated investment plan setting out a continuous programme of how and when the investment in the IRP will be spent.
- Develop a national transport strategy to strengthen strategic infrastructure planning and delivery in England.
- Use collaborative delivery models to enable delivery of the IRP schemes.
- Prioritise meaningful engagement with key stakeholders, throughout the project lifecycle, including industry, subnational government and transport bodies, and the public.
Andrew Jones MP, chair of the APPGI and former transport minister, said, “The UK needs these projects to be successful, both to level up underperforming regions and to help the country meet its net zero objectives. Our recommendations provide a framework that the whole industry can work from. Once applied to the IRP schemes, a clear project timeline and spending schedule can be developed, allowing us to get to work on transforming public transport in the North and Midlands. Insight from industry professionals has highlighted their concerns on what is holding back delivery.”
The report also identified four further key principles to guide future decisions about the IRP, which could also be applied to other rail infrastructure projects. These focus on gathering evidence to support funding decisions to ensure that projects meet the intended environmental, economic, and social objectives.
Rachel Skinner, Executive Director at WSP, member of the APPGI Steering Group, and Immediate Past President of ICE said, “Planning and paying for major infrastructure projects is a significant undertaking. When you add net zero requirements and objectives to reduce regional economic disparity into the mix, the challenges only grow. A robust set of guiding principles that bring clarity to how we prioritise projects and guide investment will streamline the delivery of the IRP and similar projects and keep industry on track.”
Notes for editors
For more information or interview requests, contact
Maggie Eckel, ICE Media Relations Manager [email protected]
Read the report: Accelerating the delivery of the Integrated Rail Plan