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Rail minister challenges industry to cut costs

THE government has challenged the rail industry to pioneer new ways of working and to halve the time and reduce the cost of completing infrastructure projects, with the launch of the next stage of Rail Project SPEED.

In a speech at the Project SPEED conference today, hosted by the Rail Industry Association, rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris invited the 1,800-strong virtual audience adopt the new approach to become ‘faster, smarter and more efficient’ in the way that projects are managed.

Rail Project SPEED (Swift, Pragmatic and Efficient Enhancement Delivery) was jointly developed by the Department for Transport and Network Rail last summer. Infrastructure projects at different stages of development have been reviewed to identify how Government funding could go further and how work could be carried out faster.

This approach identified 10 key themes to lower costs and speed up the delivery of infrastructure schemes, such as rapidly increasing the use of ‘innovative construction methods’ and simplifying planning processes.

The Department for Transport said one project already benefiting from Project SPEED principles is the scheme to reopen the former Northumberland line between Ashington and Newcastle.

The DfT added that Northumberland County Council, the 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 which save millions from the programme.’

Mr 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.’

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