UK-based international infrastructure group Balfour Beatty has published a paper called ‘Staying on Track’ laying out the group’s view that new funding models are essential to provide the UK’s rail industry with continuity of project flow, in order to support growth in innovation and skills.
It said, “The upgrade of our national rail network has the potential both to enable and drive economic expansion. However, delivering this is inextricable from ending the current stop-go pattern of funding.
“The investments required in capability, R&D (research and development) and critical strategic equipment cannot be justified by the industry without greater certainty.”
It added that ignoring this would cause rail suppliers to continue to lose skilled engineers to sectors with more reliable project pipelines. The same forces would also restrict investment in new technology and productivity.
“Such loss would intensify the already serious constraints facing the rail industry and put in question efficient delivery of the government’s intended infrastructure enhancements, with all their benefits.”
Leo Quinn, Balfour Beatty chief executive, said, “The current combination of low-cost borrowing, a general appetite for infrastructure assets and growing demand for train capacity are a powerful catalyst for accelerating the development of our national rail network.
“However, the scale of investment this requires of the sector’s suppliers makes it imperative to provide long-term certainty in the project pipeline. This means cracking the code on the underlying funding model.
“The prize is to develop a world-class rail industry in terms of innovation and capability, and provide jobs for many thousands of people.”