Speech

Network Rail Operations Focus conference

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Discusses the "under the radar" work of safety, skills and infrastructure projects completed by the rail industry.

Network Rail Operations Focus conference Good morning.

I’m sorry that I can’t be with you today.

Unfortunately other commitments mean I can’t make it to the conference, but I’m pleased to be able to make a contribution with this video message.

The agenda for the day shows you are tackling some of the biggest issues facing Britain’s railways.

Safety. Skills. And delivering some of the biggest and most important infrastructure projects this country has seen for many years.

Despite the scale of these schemes, much of the vital work you do goes on under the radar.

Yes, passengers and commuters may be aware of engineering work because they have to vary their journey plans.

But quiet and effective project management isn’t often top of the news.

The improvements at Reading are absolutely worthy of close inspection and you will be hearing about them in more detail shortly.

The team at Reading has done an incredible job keeping the station running pretty much continuously through such a huge project - including round the clock work at Easter.

But in the last few months there have been other excellent examples of how our rail industry is delivering major upgrades with a minimum of disruption for passengers.

Nottingham has seen a massive programme of work completed in a matter of days.

Nine consecutive days of engineering on the West Coast mainline in July delivered crucial improvements between Warrington and Preston.

And redoubling of the Swindon – Kemble line has been continuing, reversing the economies of previous decades to create new capacity.

Work like this requires a very high level of cooperation between engineers and operators and it is very welcome that your conference today allows colleagues from all sides of the industry to discuss progress and share ideas.

These “big builds” are being developed on and around the existing operating railway and it is vital that the industry continues to ensure that safety is generally maintained and, where it can be, improved.

All your successes make me confident that our ambitious vision for the future of our railways can be realised efficiently, cost effectively and as safely as possible.

It is about strengthening and improving our existing rail system at the same time as we prepare for the advent of high speed rail in the longer term.

To that end, we are investing in the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century.

We recognise that investing in rail is an investment in economic growth…..

Making markets more accessible………connecting people with jobs…… and improving business productivity.

In the short term, that means investing in capacity to provide room for thousands of extra commutes into our biggest cities…..

And investing in station upgrades, extra platforms and 850 miles of electrification.

This a demanding programme by any standards, and more so when it goes hand in hand with increasing efficiencies - to reduce the costs of the railway for taxpayers and farepayers.

But the fact that government is prepared to commit to a multi-billion pound programme like this is a measure of our confidence that the industry has the skills, vision and application to deliver it on the ground.

It’s the same commitment that has seen the UK rail industry support a doubling of passenger numbers since privatisation, to a level not seen since the 1920s.

And it’s why a recent EU study revealed that our railways are the most improved in Europe.

None of this may be headline news.

But it’s of immense importance to our country, and to our economic recovery.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for everything you’ve achieved.

And I know you will continue to deliver.

Have a very successful and enjoyable day.