The Strategic Rail Authority's 10-year plan to revitalise the railway system was this week described as short-sighted by the industry.
The Construction Products Association said the strategy, which includes an extra £4.5bn of funding, had no specific plans for long-term schemes such as London's CrossRail and airport links.

The SRA plan lists the projects it intends to carry out in the next four years and gives an indication of its medium- and long-term plans (see factfile).

CPA economics director Allan Wilén said: "We are disappointed that the strategy does not commit to a clearer timetable for a number of major long-term infrastructure projects."

Wilén said schemes such as CrossRail, improved links to Heathrow, Gatwick and Edinburgh airports and an upgrade to the Great Western line were unlikely to be under way by 2010.

Rail consultants gave a cool response to the plan. One QS said: "There's nothing really new in the proposals. By concentrating on smaller projects the government is avoiding the issues. The problem is still the same – how do you get big projects, such as the West Coast Main Line, off the ground."

An SRA spokesperson rejected the criticism, saying: "CrossRail has not been pushed beyond 2010 – we never said it could be delivered by 2010. It's a long-term project; just to get planning and parliamentary approval will take three-to-four years.

"The strategy has a good balance between short-term, medium-term and long-term projects."

The CPA did praise the SRA's plan to obtain a comprehensive picture of the rail network. Wilén said: "Establishing a register of the existing rail infrastructure and its condition is essential if the SRA's short-term objectives are to be achieved. We are encouraged by the SRA's commitment to redress the current deficiency of knowledge."

Concern was also raised over whether the skills shortage would make it impossible to meet the programme's targets.

The Association of Consulting Engineers said extra money was required to tackle this crisis.

Nicholas Bennett, chief executive of ACE, said: "There is a shortage of rail engineers, particularly signal engineers. The spending announced will only scratch the surface and the government is going to have to carry much of the financial risk."

The SRA’s 10-year plan

Immediate plans
£370m package for improvements at 1000 stations. Work will include the upgrade of track and signalling. Short-term plans
The East London Underground Line will be extended by 2006. Extensions to platforms used by Great Northern, Connex South Eastern and First Great Eastern will be built for longer trains. Stations used by the Chiltern and transpennine services will also be upgraded. Medium-term plans
£430m is earmarked for stations, lines, services and improved station facilities on local schemes to be built by 2010. Long-term plans
A London–Scotland high-speed line will be built and the interchange at King’s Cross-St Pancras will be upgraded.