Not the railway technical centre
Government ministers have refused to say whether ‘important railway testing and research facilities’ will be exempted from sale, wrote Lilian Greenwood MP (New Statesman, 11 Sep 2015) shortly before taking up the position of shadow transport secretary.
[Revealed: the Tory plan to privatise even more of our railway network, Lilian Greenwood, 11 Sep 2015]
[…] After months of press reports of a looming sell-off, wide ranging changes to Network Rail were announced in the Summer Budget. They include the transfer of responsibilities to regional managers, channelling subsidy through train operators instead of Network Rail, and a new property body ‘to realise value from public land and property assets in the rail network.’ None of these plans will be subject to public consultation.
The disposal of property was the only explicit reference to the sale of assets. A review has been launched into the ‘future shape and financing of Network Rail,’ with the aim of precipitating a decision by the time of the next Budget. Until then, Ministers are for the most part sticking to the mantra that the Government has ‘no current plans’ to break-up Network Rail or sell-off its assets.
What are the ‘important research and test facilities’ under threat? According to parliamentary question 6795, they are the Old Dalby Test Track and the Railway Technical Centre Business Park.
But Derby’s RTC Business Park is a collection of office buildings, sheds, and car parks divided between various companies. Space seems to be available for rent, for anyone who can afford to pay. What RTC Business Park is not (and has not been for more than twenty years), is a ‘railway technical centre’. Next to zero research and development is done there.
Presumably Ms Greenwood, or her researcher, doesn’t know about Network Rail’s “Rail Innovation and Development Centre” and High Marnham Test Track, because that was not mentioned in parliamentary question 6795.
But the reality is that these sites are of little importance, and are likely to remain that way (whoever owns the land). Britain has no meaningful railway research and development activity, and Network Rail is a ‘zombie’ organisation, with minimal in-house technology competence.