Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris has launched ‘Project SPEED’ to challenge the rail industry to pioneer faster, smarter and more efficient infrastructure projects
In a keynote speech at the Project SPEED conference, hosted by the Rail Industry Association, rail minister Chis Heaton-Harris invited the 1,800-strong virtual audience to get on board with the new approach to become faster, smarter and more efficient in the way that projects are delivered.
Infrastructure projects at different stages of development have been reviewed to identify how government funding could go further and work could be carried out faster.
This approach identified ten key themes to lower costs and speed up the delivery of infrastructure projects – such as boosting the use of innovative construction methods and removing complexity from planning processes.
These new and innovative ways of working will be rolled out across all rail upgrades, with the intention of:
- Ensuring passengers experience better journeys more quickly
- Giving greater value to taxpayers
- Transforming the pace and way in which our railways are improved.
‘Depending on transport to kickstart our economy’
Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “The whole country has relied on the transport industry over the past year to keep the country moving, supplies delivered and key workers to their jobs saving lives.
“We are now depending on transport to kickstart our economic recovery.
“Rail Project SPEED, forged alongside Network Rail, is a call to arms to cut unnecessary red tape, be bold and purposeful, and empower the railway to be radical in its thinking to halve the time and reduce the cost of delivering infrastructure projects.
“By maximising the benefits of every pound that we’re channelling into rail, we will make the case for continued investment.
“Our intention is to create a more resilient, resourceful and robust railway, equipped for the challenges ahead and delivering better for its passengers, as we build back better from Covid-19.”
Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, added: “There has never been a more important time to make the case for rail. The pandemic has spurred us to make real progress in removing barriers that have long hindered industry transformation.
“But, of course, there is still much more to do, and we will do that faster and more effectively when we work together across the industry.”
A project already benefitting from Project SPEED principles is the scheme to reopen the Northumberland line between Ashington and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which closed to passengers in 1964.
Northumberland County Council, DfT, Network Rail and AECOM have collectively worked to identify opportunities to bring this into service as quickly as possible. This could take months off the schedule and deliver efficiencies that save millions from the programme.