UK Politics

'Multi-billion' rail cash investment to be announced

David Cameron visits rail depot in Manchester in November
Image caption The DfT would not confirm reports that Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg would make a joint announcement

The government is expected to announce a plan of rail investment costing billions of pounds on Monday.

The programme will amount to £10bn during 2014-2019, the Guardian reports.

It includes a £500m scheme to electrify the Midland Main Line route between St Pancras, the east Midlands and Sheffield.

BBC political correspondent Louise Stewart quoted a government source as calling the rail investment programme "the biggest since the Victorian era."

Our correspondent said ministers wanted to "create growth and cut carbon".

Ministers say electric trains are lighter and more energy efficient, cutting the running cost and environmental impact of train services, and have faster acceleration.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has refused officially to confirm the report in the Guardian, which says PM David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg will join forces to make an announcement. The Press Association reported that Transport Secretary Justine Greening would set out the plan.

The Guardian reports that further plans include electrification of the Great Western Line from London to Swansea via Cardiff; a "northern hub" of new projects around Manchester; and an upgrade of parts of the East Coast Main Line from London to the north of England.

BBC Radio Derby political reporter Chris Doidge, meanwhile, said the Varsity line linking Oxford and Cambridge could also be reopened; most of it was closed to passengers following the Beeching Report in the 1960s.

The expected announcement follows the news on Thursday that a new £500m rail link to Heathrow Airport - which will cut journeys by up to 30 minutes - had been given the go-ahead.

A new stretch of track will be built from Slough to Heathrow which means that, from 2021, passengers travelling from south Wales, the west of England and the Thames Valley on the Great Western main line will no longer need to travel via London Paddington.

Industry 'wish list'

An announcement on rail investment had been expected as the government publishes an outline of future plans every five years. The proposals are based on the rail industry's recommendations and Network Rail - in charge of the infrastructure - and the train companies themselves also contribute to the funding.

Labour's shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said rail investment was needed to deliver jobs and growth now - not after 2015.

"The Tory-led government cut the rail investment plans they inherited by more than three-quarters of a billion pounds and have presided over two years of dither and delay over vital rail projects and train procurement," she said.

"Setting out plans for way beyond the next election helps the industry to plan ahead, but does nothing to boost the economy now."

Passengers' group the Campaign for Better Transport said it welcomed more investment in rail but that this should not be funded by "massive fares increases".

"We are also concerned that any rail investment is likely to come alongside increased funding for roads and road schemes," it said. "A coherent transport policy, as opposed to a list of schemes, looks further away than ever."

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