New demand for full devolution of Network Rail

Humza Yousaf

The Scottish Government’s transport minister Humza Yousaf has called for full devolution of Network Rail operations in Scotland after a review by EY highlighted weaknesses in Network Rail’s corporate governance of major rail infrastructure projects.

Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the rail network in Scotland, England and Wales.

The Scottish Government said the EY review exposed “fundamental weaknesses” in Network Rail’s project governance, controls and performance reporting, as well as weak and inconsistent cost forecasting and significantly higher costs to comply with national standards.

“At the heart of our £5 billion programme of improvements is an underlying need to provide best value for the public purse while delivering a first class service,” said Yousaf.

“This service has clearly not been delivered and that is why the Scottish Government rejected initial projected cost increases and schedule revisions from Network Rail.

“Instead, we instigated a full and urgent review into all of our major rail projects to fully understand the implications of the ORR report.

“The Scottish Government has warned repeatedly that there needs to be fundamental changes in how our railways are run.

“Time and time again we have set out a full and compelling case to the UK Government for the full devolution of Network Rail to Scotland.

“Time and time again these requests have been rejected, most recently in March this year yet this review adds weight to our calls for transformation.

“We know passengers are already frustrated, not least as this review comes hot on the heels of the need for ScotRail to implement a Performance Improvement Plan – something we are closely monitoring.

“While we are doing what we can to address the issues at hand, our powers are limited.

“That is why I have made clear to Network Rail’s chair, Sir Peter Hendy, and chief executive Mark Carne, my expectation that they will increase the scale and pace of their decentralisation agenda.

“As a minimum I expect this to include the full transfer of responsibilities for the development, design and delivery of infrastructure projects to their Scotland route.

“I have also raised the matter of full devolution of rail powers with the UK Railways Minister Paul Maynard and I will continue to press the issue as only with full powers can the Scottish Ministers consider the full range of options for structuring our railways in order to meet Scotland’s needs.

“Until we achieve that I am constrained to working within the limited powers at my disposal but I can confirm we will continue to deliver our full committed portfolio of rail infrastructure improvements.”