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Antony Oliver, Infrastructure Intelligence editor

Message from the editor | Issue 11 | June 15

Infrastructure Intelligence - June 2015 issue 

Rail minister Claire Perry is absolutely right when she says Network Rail faces its greatest ever challenge as it battles to transform the rail network and meet the ballooning demand for passenger and freight services (see interview page 10).

As the numbers demonstrate, rail is a success story without which the nation’s transport system would have long since ground to a halt. But the numbers also show that the system is struggling to cope.

Yet while Perry is keeping her powder dry when it comes to precisely how the government intends to respond to the clear on-going underperformance by Network Rail – underperformance graphically pointed out in this month’s quarterly Office of Rail and Road monitor report - it is equally clear that her answer will not be to do nothing.

"The transformational impact of long term investment in UK highways and a move towards world leading digital asset management techniques really do offer the opportunity for the UK industry springboard off its success. But only if we are organised to get the basics right."

A year into CP5 and the industry seems to agree and now appears comfortable talking about the elephant in the room of missed milestones, over spent budgets and under-delivery, as we heard at the recent Railway Engineers Forum Technical Seminar. There is perhaps real post-Election fear that without fundamental change and transparency the industry risks a severe loss of confidence.

Such a loss would be catastrophic across infrastructure, a sector which has spent so long building up the confidence of government and investors through projects such as the Olympics and more recently Crossrail, to the position that it can now be relied upon to deliver.

As Perry points out, infrastructure has positioned itself well as the solution to the nation’s economic woes, and proved that it is a sector worthy of precious and well-guarded public investment.

This must continue. Green light for the Swansea Tidal Lagoon project signals the start of a potential £30bn world leading industry. The transformational impact of long term investment in UK highways and a move towards world leading digital asset management techniques really do offer the opportunity for the UK industry springboard off its success. But only if we are organised to get the basics right. This parliament is about delivery, says Perry. 

It would be a good idea to embrace that ideal.

Antony Oliver is the editor of infrastructure Intelligence