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Railways to get £8bn investment

Category: England

Published: 25th Nov 2010 07:00:28

The government has announced plans for £8bn of investment in Great Britain's railways.

It is buying about 2,000 new carriages to tackle overcrowding, electrifying some lines and pressing ahead with the Thameslink programme.

But plans to modernise the London-Swansea line are still on hold and it will be the end of the decade before the investment is complete.

Passengers also face rises in ticket prices to help pay for the investments.

Patrick Butcher, finance director at Network Rail, which owns all of Britain's rail infrastructure, welcomed the announcement.

"The government recognises that the railways play an important role in economic growth and this investment proves that," he said, after Network Rail announced half-yearly profits of £299m - more than double the amount it made last year.

The government had put many rail investment schemes on hold while it decided which it could afford in the face of budget cuts. Now we know that more than 2,000 new carriages are being bought, with 1,850 of them being used to provide extra capacity.

Those carriages will not arrive instantly though - they won't finish coming into service until 2019.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond admitted that it was a "rolling programme" but said passengers would start to see the benefits "within the next few months".

Some 400 of the new carriages are for Crossrail (the new line being built east-west across London), 800 for Thameslink (the north-south link across London) and 650 will be given to different franchises around the country.

Those 650 carriages will be used to serve commuters travelling into the big cities.

But the government cannot say precisely which franchises will get what.

Although the new carriages will be given to the franchises, and represent good news for passengers - the train companies will want extra money from the government to run them.

So ministers will now negotiate with franchises to get the best deal they can - and that will determine in part where the carriages go.

Those carriages will increase capacity on the network by 17%, enabling an extra 185,000 passengers to be carried at any one time.

The Thameslink project is also going to go ahead in full. This will eventually double capacity on the route from Brighton to Bedford, allowing up to 24 trains an hour.

Work on the scheme is already underway, but there had been question marks over whether the rest of the stages would go ahead.

It won't be completed though until 2018 - two years later than planned. That delay means the engineering work is easier, and cuts costs.

There is also news that lines in the north west - from Manchester to Liverpool and Manchester to Blackpool - are going to be electrified.

Electric trains have an operating cost roughly half that of their diesel equivalents. They are also more reliable and can fit more passengers on board.

But the long-awaited electrification of the London to Swansea Great Western route still isn't happening.

The government is deciding whether to replace the intercity fleet with electric trains, or electric-diesel hybrids. Whatever it decides will determine what happens to the electrification of the route into South Wales.

Passengers face an average fare rise of 6.2% in the new year, with some commuters seeing their tickets go up by as much as 12.8%.

The government says these fare rises are necessary to safeguard the investment that has just been announced.

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BBC News, 2010. Railways to get £8bn investment [Online] (Updated 25th Nov 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/110777/Railways-to-get-8bn-investment [Accessed 31st Aug 2014]

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