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Poor showing by rail in DfT’s list of Nationally Significant Transport Infrastructure Projects


The Department for Transport (DfT) has released both a definition of what a ‘nationally significant infrastructure project’ actually is and a list transport projects where application decisions are available.

The definition of a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) in the transport sector includes:

  • New roads which are to form part of the strategic road network (motorways and trunk roads) operated by Highways England (above certain thresholds);
  • New railway lines in England which are to be operated by Network Rail (above certain thresholds);
  • New rail freight interchanges over 60 hectares in area in England;
  • New large-scale harbours in England or Wales;
  • New airports in England capable of handling at least 10 million passengers per year.

Under the Planning Act 2008, a developer intending to construct an NSIP must obtain ‘development consent’. The National Infrastructure Directorate of the Planning Inspectorate receives and examines applications for development consent.

The DfT then listed the NSIPs that had been approved. Disappointingly, there vast majority weren’t for rail projects and of those that were, most were privately funded freight terminals. Approved Network Rail-sponsored infrastructure projects were all some years in the past.

The full list of approved projects, with rail-related ones shown in red,  is:

  • A585 Windy Harbour to Skippool Improvement Scheme: 9 April 2020
  • Northampton Gateway Rail Freight Interchange: 10 October 2019
  • The Port of Tilbury (Expansion): 20 February 2019
  • A19 / A184 Testos Junction Improvement, 12 September 2018
  • Silvertown Tunnel: 10 May 2018
  • M20 Junction 10a (Ashford, Kent): 1 December 2017
  • M4 Junctions 3 to 12 Smart Motorway: 2 September 2016
  • York Potash Harbour Facilities, near Redcar, Teesside: 20 July 2016
  • A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon Improvement Scheme: 11 May 2016
  • A19/A1058 Coast Road Junction Improvement (North Tyneside): 28 January 2016
  • East Midlands Gateway Rail Freight Interchange (Castle Donington, Leicestershire): 12 January 2016
  • Norwich Northern Distributor Road: 2 June 2015
  • A30 Temple to Higher Carblake Improvement, Cornwall: 5 February 2015
  • A160-A180 Port of Immingham Improvement: 4 February 2015
  • Morpeth Northern Bypass: 12 January 2015
  • Central Bedfordshire Council (Woodside Link, Houghton Regis): 30 September 2014
  • The A556 (Knutsford to Bowdon Improvement) Order: 28 August 2014
  • Daventry International Rail Freight Interchange Alteration Order: 3 July 2014
  • Network Rail (Norton Bridge Area Improvements) Order (near Stafford): 31 March 2014
  • Able Marine Energy Park (North Lincolnshire) ‘minded to approve’ letter: 28 August 2013 final decision letter: 18 December 2013
  • Network Rail (Redditch Branch Enhancement) Order: 31 October 2013
  • M1 Junction 10a (Grade Separation) Order: 30 October 2013
  • Completion of Heysham to M6 (Junction 34) Link Road: 19 March 2013 Amendment Order: 5 March 2015
  • North Doncaster Rail Chord: 16 October 2012
  • Ipswich Rail Chord: 5 September 2012

A secondary list of all projects, including those still to be approved, shows only 11 of the 171 being labelled as ‘rail’ and only five of those are from Network Rail, of which four are already completed.

It does seem that Network Rail has work to do if it is going to get any of its much-vaunted capital infrastructure projects underway in Control Period 6 (2019-2024).


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