DfT plans railway upgrades across England and Wales

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The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced new railway upgrade schemes across England and Wales worth an estimated £4.2bn to start between 2014 and 2019.

This is in addition to £5.2bn of projects already committed to in the same period for Crossrail, Thameslink and electrification between London and Cardiff, Manchester to Liverpool and Preston and across the Pennines.

According to the DfT, the new projects 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, and will include the following:

  • £350m for the lengthening of platforms at London Waterloo station;
  • £240m of improvements along the East Coast Main Line from the north east down through Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire to London;
  • £800m for the creation of a high-capacity ‘electric spine’ running from Yorkshire and the West Midlands to south coast ports;
  • £600m to complete the full electrification of the Great Western Main Line out of London Paddington to Swansea and electrifying the Welsh Valley lines, including Ebbw Vale, Maesteg and the Vale of Glamorgan;
  • £322m for the completion of the ‘Northern Hub’ cluster of rail enhancements and outstanding track and capacity upgrades across Manchester city centre, Manchester Airport and across to Liverpool; and
  • £500m for a new 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.

In response to the announcement, the Office of Rail Regulation, a non-ministerial department operationally independent of central government, released the following statement: ‘The government’s plan for the railways between 2014 and 2019 sets out a massive programme of investment towards achieving a world-class rail service, underlining the importance of rail in economic growth and connectivity across England and Wales.

‘We now need to ensure that the plan is affordable and to work with the rail industry to set out in detail how it can be delivered. Fundamental in our role will be ensuring that all those involved in delivering the plan work together to make every penny count and achieve the best possible value for money for passengers and taxpayers.’

Meanwhile, the leading rail advocacy group, Campaign for Better Transport, welcomed more investment in rail but cautioned against ‘massive fare increases’ to pay for it.

‘We are also concerned that any rail investment is likely to come alongside increased funding for roads and road schemes, including a possible toll road on the A14 near Cambridge, which will simply add to congestion around Cambridge. A coherent transport policy, as opposed to a list of schemes, looks further away than ever,’ it said.