Office of Rail & Road’s Stephen Glaister warns UK Rail Summit that continuation of current ‘HLOS/SoFA’ process cannot be taken for granted

 

Stephen Glaister: ‘a real risk’

 

The chair of the railway’s regulator has warned that there is “a real risk” that the government will ditch the current process of five-year funding settlements for the industry and reintroduce a system of annual budgeting.

Speaking at last week’s UK Rail Summit in London, Professor Stephen Glaister, chair of the Office of Rail & Road, told delegates that the continuation of the current ‘HLOS/SoFA’ process could not be taken for granted.

Sir Peter Hendy, chair of Network Rail, told the summit that going back to annual budgeting would be “disastrous”.

 

‘We have a job to do to save HLOS/SoFA’

The rail industry must act quickly if its wants to retain its current process of five-year funding settlements, according to the chair of the Office of Rail & Road.

Speaking at last week’s UK Rail Summit in London, Professor Stephen Glaister pointed out the government should have produced a High Level Output Specification (HLOS) and Statement of Funds Available (SoFA) for 2019-2024 on July 20. Instead, the government produced a “sketchy” HLOS and did not produce a SoFA.

“The reason for that is that the government is in debate internally and with ourselves about where it wanted to go with the funding for the railway,” said Glaister. “And it was agreed that the publishing of the SoFA would be delayed until October 13.

“As an industry we have a job to do between now and October 13 to give the confidence to government to make a decent, stable settlement for the next period – and that’s not in the bank, as I speak.”

Glaister said he was “absolutely opposed” to changing the HLOS/SoFA process, which “was put in there for a good reason”.

We really do not want to return to an annualised settlement, and there’s a real risk that that might happen

He added: “We really do not want to return to an annualised settlement, and there’s a real risk that that might happen…  We will defend, within the existing legislation of course,  the HLOS and SoFA process, and it does need defending.”

Speaking at the same event, Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy said: “The whole industry needs to stoutly defend the SoFA and the HLOS process because the result is only going back to annual budgeting, which is disastrous.”

Hendy contrasted this with his nine and a half years in charge at Transport for London: “One of the differences between Transport for London and the railway industry is that we had a longer term business plan of which some portion of it was funded.”

 

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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