MPs to quiz train chiefs over Network Rail spending plans

MPs are to question the head of Network Rail and others over the delays to work on the train line which runs through Wellingborough, Kettering and Corby

MPs are to question the head of Network Rail and others over the delays to work on the train line which runs through Wellingborough, Kettering and Corby

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MPs are to question the head of Network Rail and others over the delays to work on the train line which runs through Wellingborough, Kettering and Corby.

The Public Accounts Committee will hear evidence on October 21 as part of its inquiry into Network Rail investment.

It follows the Government’s decision to pause electrification work on the Midland Mainline and Transpennine rail route and prioritise the Great Western Main Line project.

The Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, told the House of Commons in June that “important aspects of Network Rail’s investment programme are costing more and taking longer”, expressing concerns about Network Rail’s ability to deliver its current five-year, £38bn investment programme.

It was announced on October 1 that work, including the upgrading of the Midland Mainline, would resume.

The National Audit Office has submitted a memorandum to provide a factual overview of the roles of the Department for Transport, Office of Rail and Road and Network Rail in the planning and delivery of schemes between 2014 and 2019.

This PAC inquiry will draw on the NAO memorandum to examine the current difficulties in delivering the planned programme, to understand how rail investment is planned; how things have differed from the 2009-2014 investment programme and the implications of the decision to reclassify Network Rail as a public sector body, and how and when concerns were raised and how the Government is responding.

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “Rail infrastructure is an area of considerable concern for the PAC.

“In the last Parliament we examined a number of major rail projects sponsored by the Department for Transport, including HS2, Thameslink and Crossrail.

“We found the Department lacked a clear strategic plan for the rail network, and it was unclear how the Department makes decisions about which programmes to prioritise for investment.

“Now at last we are able to look in detail at how Network Rail is spending its share of taxpayers’ money.

“It’s important to establish the facts about Network Rail’s performance and assess the value for money.

“With huge investment planned and multi-billion pound contracts being signed, we need to make sure the taxpayer is getting a good deal on what is much-needed improvement works.

“Planning and implementing large-scale rail projects is complex and expensive, and typically comes with the promise of significant economic and other benefits for the public.

“In particular, the Government has made clear its intentions to establish a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ as part of wider regional devolution.

“The decision to pause electrification work on the Midland Mainline and Transpennine rail route, and prioritise the Great Western Main Line project, has clear implications for taxpayers and the PAC will be holding Network Rail and the Department for Transport to account.”

Among those to be called before MPs will be Department for Transport Permanent Secretary Philip Rutnam, chief executive of Network Rail Mark Carne, and chief executive of the Office of Rail and Road Richard Price.

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