Rail apprenticeships must stay on track

Rail apprenticeships must stay on track image
Britain’s railway sector must improve on efforts to develop apprenticeships, despite a recent pause placed on two major electrification programmes, the Transport Secretary has said.
 
Patrick McLoughlin told a House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee hearing on Monday that he wants to see his Department “pull together” and make sure it has “much more of a focus on the skills required” in the railway sector. He also called on the supply chain to develop more of a co-ordinated approach to skills delivery.
 
“One of the most important things for me as Secretary of State is to make sure we keep on top of the skills agenda and plan as far as future skills are concerned,” he added.
 
Last month Mr McLoughlin told Parliament that he was placing a “pause” on electrification of the Midland Mainline and Transpennine routes because Network Rail’s investment programme was costing more and taking longer than expected.
 
During Monday’s hearing Mr McLoughlin was asked by members of the Transport Select Committee to explain why the decision was taken to place a pause on electrification. “I didn’t want a repeat of the West Coast Mainline (upgrade) where a £2Bn scheme ended up costing £9Bn,” Mr McLoughlin replied.
 
He added that he wanted to get a better grip on costs of future works and has asked Network Rail’s new chairman Sir Peter Hendy to do a “deep dive” into investment plans and report back by October.
 
Elsewhere, the Office of Rail & Road said yesterday that Britain’s railways are now the safest in Europe, but added there is room for improvement. The regulator said the industry must look to ‘design out’ or reduce safety risks when renewing or building new infrastructure, rolling stock and equipment.
 
It added that the rail industry must improve its management of worker health risk and found “serious issues” where inspectors have had to step in regarding insufficient safety risk assessment and a lack of planning for maintenance activities.
 
♦ Boris Johnson has stepped up pressure on the Government to provide financial backing to Crossrail 2 – the proposed rail route linking North East with South West London.
 
The capital’s Mayor has called on the Chancellor to use the current Comprehensive Spending Review to provide development funding to allow a start on construction of the line early in the next decade.
 
The Mayor also announced plans for a new Growth Commission to help Crossrail 2 realise its full potential.

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