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£9.4 billion railway infrastructure investment announced

July 16, 2016

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The UK government has this morning announced a major new railway infrastructure investment package.

Black and white photo of railway tracks

Image by "apdk" via flickr

The total investment has been quoted as £9.4 billion; £5.2 billion is earmarked for the completion of current projects such as the London and South East Cross rail scheme and the improvements to the Thameslink routes. The other £4.2 billion will be spent on new projects including:

  • A new electric line between Yorkshire and the West Midlands, and the South Coast
  • A new link between the Great Western Main Line and Heathrow
  • A project known as the Northern Hub. It will focus on a variety of schemes to improve rail links in and around Manchester
  • The line between Sheffield and Bradford will be electrified – this will complete the electrification of the Midland Main Line
  • The line between Cardiff and Swansea will be electrified, as will the lines in the Welsh valleys
  • The East Coast Main Line will be getting upgrades
  • Station and track upgrades

The announcement is being hailed as the biggest investment in Britain’s rail infrastructure since Victorian times. Part of the idea behind the investments it to try to close the North South divide by improving transport links.

However it’s not all chocolate and roses for travellers though. The majority of the funding for the projects will come from increases in fares for passengers.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Transport Secretary Justine Greening explained: “We’ve got to get the money from somewhere so, for the time being, the passengers are paying.”

It is expected that the rest of the funding will come from the significant savings the scheme will bring about. Electric trains are significantly cheaper to run than older diesel models. Also the electric trains are lighter and cause less track wear and tear, which should result in lower maintenance costs.

The government has come in for some criticism due to the schedule for the new projects, none of which are due to get underway until 2015.

Maria Eagle, Shadow Transport Secretary, argued that the investment package: “won’t help jobs and growth now, as there’s not going to be a penny spent until after 2015.”

I think most people will agree that making the rail network cleaner, faster and more efficient is a worthy project, but the proposed timescale is later than they’d like.

What are your thoughts on the announcement? Let us know in the comments box below.

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