On 17 November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, delivered his Autumn Statement, which included a number of measures related to transport infrastructure, the railway industry and rail supply businesses. As part of the statement, the Chancellor confirmed that the core Northern Powerhouse Rail, East West Rail and HS2 to Manchester schemes are all set to go ahead. He also said that capital budgets will increase over the next two years to 2024, and then be maintained in cash terms subsequently.

In response, Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, the national trade body representing UK rail suppliers, said: ‘Rail suppliers are very clear that clarity and certainty are essential, and so whilst we welcome the Government’s announcement today, we urge the Government to simply deliver what it says it is going to deliver. The industry still needs clarity on the details, including on all elements of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, and sight of the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline, which still hasn’t been updated in over three years.

‘To deliver both transformational major projects for the future and to protect today’s railway, the industry needs the Government to commit to a long-term investment package beyond 2024, including through next week’s publication of the Statement of Funds Available for CP7. This will also ensure best value for money for both rail users and the taxpayer.’

Michelle Craven-Faulkner, partner and rail lead at Shoosmiths, said: ‘It is critical, however, that projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail are delivered in full, with questions over what constitutes building the ‘core’ part of the network. These connections matter and cannot be delivered in a piecemeal fashion.’

Kevin Minton, Chief Executive of the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) said: ‘In what will be challenging economic times, it is welcome that the government has committed to Hinkley Point C, HS2, the East West rail link and Northern Powerhouse Rail. This echoes our call for the Autumn Statement to provide stability and confidence for the construction sector, utilising construction as a driver of economic growth. It follows the move to make the Annual Investment Allowance set permanently at £1 million. The construction plant-hire industry has a critical role to play in these projects. Moving into 2023, the CPA will be working closely with our members to realise these ambitions.’

Cllr Richard Wenham, Chair of England’s Economic Heartland, said: ‘EEH welcomes the Chancellor’s commitment to East West Rail as the right thing to do for the UK economy. With our global presence in advanced manufacturing, life sciences and digital services, this region is pivotal to the Chancellor’s ambitions for the UK to be the next Silicon Valley.’