£9bn railway investment announced by coalition

 

David Cameron: ''It's about getting people and freight off the roads and onto the railway''

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A £9.4bn package of investment in the railways in England and Wales, including £4.2bn of new schemes, has been unveiled by the government.

The plans include electrification of the Midland Main Line between Bedford and Sheffield.

Other rail improvements have been unveiled for the Manchester area, south Wales and East Coast Main Line.

Prime Minister David Cameron called it the "biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian era".

During a visit to Birmingham to announce the railway investment, the PM said it would lead to the electrification of an extra 850 miles of track.

He said: "This investment will mean faster journeys, more seats, better access to stations, greater freight links and a truly world-class rail network."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who joined the PM on the visit, said the plans would help "close the north south divide".

It includes £5.2bn for the completion of current schemes, such as Crossrail and Thameslink and £4.2bn for new projects.

These include:

  • A high-capacity "electric spine" running from Yorkshire and the West Midlands to south coast ports, boosting passenger and freight capacity
  • An £800m electrification and upgrade from Sheffield to Bedford, completing the full electrification of the Midland Main Line
  • Electrification extended from Cardiff to Swansea, costing £600m, plus electrification of the Welsh valley lines
  • The Northern Hub - a series of projects around Manchester worth £322m that improve northern rail capacity to get more and faster trains across the north of England
  • Upgrades to the East Coast Main Line from London to Leeds and Newcastle worth £240m to create faster journeys and increase capacity
  • Upgrades to stations and tracks creating capacity for an additional 140,000 daily rail commutes around cities at peak times, including £350m for lengthening platforms at London's Waterloo station
  • A new £500m rail link between the Great Western Main Line and Heathrow

Building work on the rail projects will not start until at least 2014, as the announcement covers the period 2014 to 2019.

Map of planned electrification of rail routes

The government said it would 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".

In January this year, passengers faced average increases of RPI inflation plus 1% on regulated fares, which are set to rise by RPI plus 3% in January 2013 and 14.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the government had a long-term plan to make the rail industry work more efficiently and stop the above-inflation fare rises.

"We've got to get the money from somewhere so, for the time being, the passengers are paying," she said.

"We all know that diesel is massively expensive so if we can move over to electric trains, not only are they greener, they're also cheaper and also they are lighter too, so what that means is that when they are on the track they don't damage it so much, so maintenance costs go down too," she added.

Regarding access to the rail network, she later told Parliament she was initially making £20m available for Network Rail to invite bids for new stations.

Value for money

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said: "We welcome this investment, it was actually first announced under the last Labour government... but this won't help jobs and growth now, as there's not going to be a penny spent until after 2014."

Analysis

A lot of electric railway lines and new track can be bought for £9.4bn but how does the money break down and what difference could it make? Oh, and who pays for it?

Well, for starters, £5.2bn will go to either continue or finish off projects that have been under way for some years.

But the rest is new and it will mean faster journey times, more seats and spruced up stations, with many regions in England and Wales benefiting, especially across the north of England.

The trick will be to fund all of this whizzy new kit without ticket prices going through the roof. We already know season tickets, along with some other fares, will go up by inflation plus 3% in January 2013 and January 2014.

They'll then go up by inflation plus 1% in 2015. The government says it wants to stop further rises by saving money across the industry. If it can't manage that, fares could rise for many years to come to help pay for all this new investment.

She refused to rule out renationalising the railways to ensure better value for money.

But Labour played down the significance of her comments, saying the focus would be on local solutions.

Bob Crow, general secretary of transport union the RMT, said: "What we need is investment in rail today not yet another political promise of jam tomorrow."

Chief executive of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, Anthony Smith, said passengers would welcome the "scale and ambition" of the investment.

But he added: "Value for money remains a concern. Passengers will want to see the government avoid above-inflation fare increases. These investments must be delivered in a cost-effective way."

Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Stephen Joseph said the investment was good news, but the two years of fare increases would mean many passengers could not afford its benefits.

"At a time when public subsidy of the railways is falling and efficiency savings in the industry are already reducing costs, there is simply no need to make passengers pay over the odds," he said.

Network Rail is funded by a £3.5bn annual government grant and income from track access charges - either rail fares or revenue support payments from the government. It also borrows money which the government guarantees.

 

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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 738.

    Fleet Engineering Dept. and I'm off to bed. As for nowhere is it not 100% anti-BR, I share an office with 11 engineers, all remember BR, the people asleep on nights leaving others to take the load, managers scared of unions, poor wages and working conditions. Another depot I visit has 100% non ex BR staff, mostly ex airline or armed services engineers. I doubt they'd want BR either.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 737.

    735. Entropic man

    If you'd driven in, paying fuel, depreciation, servicing, parking and the congestion charge; how much would each day's travel have cost?
    +++
    Do you think I'm the Duke of Westminster?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 736.

    @Porter: "the coasters were allowed to retire" Wow, a fantastic way of spinning it - everyone who was fired was a "coaster". What proportion of track maintenance staff were "coasters"?

    Yeah, IC225s were a post-APT stopgap - we didn't get anything like the Talgo Pendular until 10+y later. And it wasn't newer ICs requiring high maintenance, but regional services everywhere with decades-old stock.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 735.

    #720.Name Number 6
    "When I worked, my monthly train ticket would cost £331.10 I live less than 30 miles from London."

    That's about £16.50 a day for the train.

    If you'd driven in, paying fuel, depreciation, servicing, parking and the congestion charge; how much would each day's travel have cost?

    #732 inqa
    " Germany"

    My daughter lives in Germany and would agree with you.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 734.

    All for any improvements but I think it would be cheaper and more effective to pay the French to manage the railways for us rather than these clowns. It is cheaper to fly to Brussels than take the train to London for me and as I am not an MP I have to pay myself.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 733.

    What utter rot. There are no short term contracts, all have permanent contracts and retain BR style final salary pensions. The best applied for and got the courses, the coasters were allowed to retire or apply for redundancy. None were compulsory. Thatchers Govt. authorised IC225, all classes 14x and 15x , 31x, 32x 45x, the follow on IC125s, 58s and 60s.+ many miles of electrification. Remember?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 732.

    @Entropic man: Yeah, that we have mediocre service, comfort, reliability yet the most expensive network in Europe means we are living in "cloud cuckoo land" to expect better.

    Compare Germany: a fine railway system combining state services with genuinely competing private interests.

    @Porter: "All" you work with - HR? PR? Ex-BR staff aren't all pro-BR but nowhere on the ground is it 100% anti-BR.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 731.

    724. Jon Porter
    1974-78 was very bad if you used Fenchurch Street.
    +++
    I did, it wasn't brilliant but at least I didn't need to take out a second Mortgage to buy a ticket.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 730.

    Feed the vultures.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 729.

    I'll be retired by the time most of this HLOS happens, but in common with all I work with BR is viewed as a distant non rose tinted memory. You would think the move from taxpayer funding to user funding would be welcomed. BR can never return because the trains themselves are now mostly new and all privately owned and public sector wont take on the pension liability of all the staff.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 728.

    @Porter: Ah, you're selling the policy of firing most of the workers and selecting a few for management positions - then rehiring the rest via third parties on short-term contracts. Yeah, I knew a few people who were treated like that. "Better conditions" my foot. Cost a lot more, of course, but made a few middlemen very rich.

    As to "brand new stock under Thatcher", your region sounds unique.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 727.

    #721 inga
    " I find it hard not to ignore any arguments involving a link to Wikipedia"

    The Wikpedia link was a quick summary source. Like yourself I would regard it as a starting point for more detailed research.

    I'm neutral on this one. I dont know whether the government was too harsh or not. I intended to illustrate that UK rail transport is much more complex than most here realise.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 726.

    Keynsian ideas are very welcome. Especially on such decrepit railways. Manchester to Rochdale, for example, is horrendous. Also, it's nice to see money being spent across the country and not just in one little corner.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 725.

    719. Jon Porter

    Yes I work on the railway, at a large depot
    +++
    What, in the PR department?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 724.

    One selects the best staff and invests in them. Training, tooling, chances for promotion, no more "buggins turn" and as for the "underinvestment" argument. The stock was brand new under Thatcher, but it was BR who wrote the spec. It's been improved using lessons BR learned the hard way. BR was starved under Labour as well, 1974-78 was very bad if you used Fenchurch Street.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 723.

    An interesting pattern. Any comment discussing the reality of rail operations is voted down; anything rude is voted up.

    Those expecting frequent, spacious, modern trains that are never late or snowed in, and all for a couple of pounds a ticket; you are living in cloud cuckoo land.
    The Americans have an apposite saying.

    TANSTAAFL

    There Aint No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 722.

    134. Gary - Did you know that none of the users of the road in front of me contributed to the cost of it - they paid no admission charge, no toll, it all came through taxation. No more taxpayer funded roads, private sector roads FTW.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 721.

    @715. Entropic man: While I find it hard not to ignore any arguments involving a link to Wikipedia, what "happened" is that an artificial subsidiary was created by National Express so it wouldn't have to fulfil its obligations if problems arose. The government not having prohibited such arrangements, it took over the franchise to retain service.

    @Porter: Err, who employs you?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 720.

    Luckily, I don't work in London any more but if I did my monthly train ticket would cost £331.10 I live less than 30 miles from London.

    Someone somewhere is making.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 719.

    Yes I work on the railway, at a large depot maintaining both local and Inter City Trains. Everything at this depot has been improved through private finance, tooling, wheel lathes, servicing facilities, computers, staff facilities, train capacity and so on. It turns around 75% more vehicles a night than BR did using 40% fewer staff and the fleet performance is much higher than BR managed.

 

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