Our response to the National Audit Office’s report on the East West Rail project

On 13 December, the National Audit Office (NAO) released a report on their investigation into the East West Rail project. The report is available here. We shared the following response to the report and its findings:


We note with interest the National Audit Office’s report on East West Rail. While this scheme sits outside Transport East’s area, we believe the project will dramatically improve access from the East to growing economic centres outside our region, through connections at Cambridge.

East-West rail connections across the UK are poor and our transport strategy supports maximising the current plans for East West Rail by extending it to the east coast and north Essex.

The NAO’s report has a relatively narrow focus, due to the organisation’s remit. But it does highlight some challenges, particularly the well-known complexities of capturing the long-term and wide ranging benefits of transformational transport projects through the existing business case appraisal process. The report acknowledges the DfT has identified a strong strategic case for the project – which is reflected in the championing of the scheme from businesses, local authorities, academia and communities.

We welcome the NAO’s conclusion that ‘improved communication and joint working between central government and local bodies are needed to overcome barriers to progress and achieve the goals of the project over the long term’. The East West Rail Eastern Section Board, chaired by Suffolk County Council member Cllr Alexander Nicoll and facilitated by us, ensures the region’s views are fed into the strategic discussions around East West Rail, and we will work to ensure the widest regional benefits are evidenced as the next phases of EWR develop.

We also agree that any assessment of how trains are powered should take a long-term approach including aligning with the government’s decarbonisation plans.