Railways

Part of Department for Transport – in the House of Commons at 7:09 pm on 9th March 2009.

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Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Chair, Transport Committee 7:09 pm, 9th March 2009

The hon. Gentleman reinforces my point. His argument points to issues to do with the whole structure of the rail system and the way in which it is financed. The Government may well have to look again at the structure of our rail system and how it is funded.

My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North, referred to ROSCOs—the rolling stock leasing companies. Those companies are already the subject of a Competition Commission inquiry. I ask the Minister whether the Government have given any consideration to the possibility that the financial institutions that fund the ROSCOs, perhaps already affected by the banking crisis, might consider retreating to their core business, thus jeopardising the future purchase of rolling stock. I do not think that that issue has been raised before, but we should at least give some thought to it in the current economic circumstances.

Hon. Members have referred to the important issue of securing value for money, a subject that the Select Committee's report addressed. It looked specifically at Network Rail. Information on its expenditure was compared to that for similar European companies. It was found that there was an efficiency deficit amounting to £263 million per annum in relation to maintenance, and one of £846 million per annum in relation to renewals. Network Rail has now accepted the rail regulator's decision to reduce the sum that it requested for the next control period from £31.1 billion to £28.5 billion—a reduction of £2.6 billion.

The chief executive of Network Rail recently wrote to me, confirming that the rail regulator has assumed 24 per cent. efficiencies in track renewals between 2009 and 2014. The letter says that Network Rail will now defer 25 per cent. of track renewals planned for 2009-10. It anticipates that there will be more efficient new plant and off-site assembly methods in place in 2010 for progressing those track renewals.

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