Labour’s big change in transport policy was to increase the amount of subsidy going to the railways substantially, whilst cutting back the amount spent on roads. We received little by way of new railway line or roads during the last thirteen years, other than the completion of the Channel rail link initiated by the previous government. Much of the railway money paid for operating losses.
Yesterday the Coalition government announced a compensation and purchase scheme for home owners affected by a proposed new rail line from London to Birmingham, cutting through the Chilterns. The railway presumably has to be part of the public spending exercise.
Prior to the election the Shadow Cabinet led us to believe that this project could not be started on the ground before 2015, so the main costs of building it will fall outside the current spending review. However, initial costs of planning, land acquisition and the like may well fall in the next few years.
I would be interested to hear from bloggers if they think this is an important public spending priority. If it is, are there ways more of the capital cost can be met from private risk capital to save the taxpayer? Can future running costs and revenues be brought closer together to limit the subsidy cost? What should the timetable be for this project if it is one you like?