DfT to ‘build confidence’ for rail investment

Rail minister Jo Johnson has underlined his confidence in the government’s efforts to bring more private finance into rail infrastructure, but some sources remain sceptical.

Giving evidence to the Commons transport committee, Johnson said the government recognises that it does not have a monopoly on good ideas.

“This is why we have opened a window…for the private sector, private promoters…to put together schemes that haven’t been generated by our long-term planning process,” he said.

“We want to put in place an easier process for private finance to invest in the rail network. We need to build confidence that there is a viable route for private finance.

“This is part of an exciting opening up of the sector.”

Brian Etheridge, director of rail network services at the Department for Transport (DfT), also told the MPs that some of the projects brought forward through the market-led proposals initiative may not require a government-led procurement process.

He said the department expects a wide range of schemes to be suggested through the market-led proposals initiative, from proposals providing southern access to Heathrow Airport, to a small station improvement.

“It really is going to be from potentially several billion pound schemes to much smaller schemes.”

However, some industry sources have questioned the government’s commitment to the initiative, suggesting that there is little clarity on how the department will deal with the proposals once they have been received.