By Daniel Hunter
More than £9 billion of growth-boosting railway upgrades across England and Wales have been announced by Transport Secretary Justine Greening.
The full £9.4 billion programme of improvements to the rail network published today (Monday) will meet the needs of intercity passengers, commuters and freight up to the end of this decade while the Government continues to work on High Speed 2 to deliver rail capacity for the British economy in the decades to come.
This High Level Output Specification programme for 2014-2019 will be discussed at today’s meeting of the Cabinet which the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister will hold outside London.
“From Crossrail, high speed rail and now the billions of pounds of investment we are announcing today, this government is committed to taking the long term decisions to deliver growth and jobs," Prime Minister David Cameron said.
“In what is the biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian era this investment will mean faster journeys, more seats, better access to stations, greater freight links and a truly world class rail network.”
Crossrail, Thameslink, and electrification between London and Cardiff, Manchester to Liverpool and Preston, and across the Pennines, are among £5.2 billion of projects already committed to during 2014-2019. New schemes totalling £4.2 billion unveiled today include:
- Upgrades to stations and tracks creating enough capacity around cities for an additional 140,000 daily rail commutes at peak times. In addition to Crossrail and Thameslink, announced previously, today’s enhancements — such as the £350m lengthening of platforms at London Waterloo station — will provide capacity for 120,000 more daily commutes in and out of London and 20,100 extra daily commutes across Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and other cities.
- Faster journeys and more train capacity from £240m of improvements along the East Coast Main Line from the North East down through Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire to London.
- The creation of a high-capacity “electric spine” running from Yorkshire and the West Midlands to South Coast ports allowing more reliable electric trains to cut journey times and boost capacity for passengers and freight. This comprises: an £800m electrification and upgrade from Sheffield — through Nottingham, Derby and Leicester — to Bedford, completing the full electrification of the Midland Main Line out of London St Pancras; and electrification of the lines from Nuneaton and Bedford to Oxford, Reading, Basingstoke and Southampton.
- The landmark decision to take electric rail beyond Cardiff to Swansea, completing the full electrification of the Great Western Main Line out of London Paddington at a total cost of more than £600m, and electrifying the Welsh Valley lines, including Ebbw Vale, Maesteg and the Vale of Glamorgan. These will give two-thirds of the Welsh population access to new fleets of electric trains helping to generate Welsh jobs and growth by slashing journey times and boosting passenger and freight capacity.
- Completion in full of the “Northern Hub” cluster of rail enhancements with the approval of £322m of outstanding track and capacity upgrades across Manchester city centre, Manchester Airport and across to Liverpool. These are in addition to £477m of Northern Hub schemes already approved across the North of England such as electrification of the North Trans Pennine route between York and Manchester.
- A new £500m rail link between the Great Western Main Line and Heathrow allowing direct services to the airport for passengers from the West Country, the Thames Valley and Wales.
The HLOS package will be funded in part from fare rises already announced in 2010 and also from the substantial efficiency savings which projects like electrification will have on the long term operating costs of the railways.
“Investment on this scale, in every region of the country, shows how this coalition government is focused on delivering an affordable, reliable and faster railway network that drives jobs and growth," Transport Secretary Justine Greening said.
“These plans to increase capacity and shorten journey times on intercity, commuter and freight services are, alongside our plans for high speed rail, absolutely key to securing our country’s prosperity in the decades ahead.”
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