News Network Rail Unveils £37bn Investment Plan

Network Rail has unveiled plans to invest £37bn in rail infrastructure between 2014 and 2019.

The strategy includes £6bn to complete the Thameslink upgrade programme in London, £2.3bn for finishing the Crossrail project and adding 20 per cent more seats during the morning rush hour in the capital.

Outside of London, Network Rail has earmarked £900 million to remove the biggest bottleneck on the Great Western Main Line by rebuilding the line in and around Reading station.

There will also be £600 million to redevelop Birmingham New Street station and £560 million to deliver the Northern Hub project, which Network Rail claims will create 20,000 jobs and increase rail capacity across the North of England by around 700 services per day.

In Scotland, the plan will see £360 million spent on reopening 31 miles of railway closed by Beeching in the 1960s that connect border towns to Edinburgh.

In Wales, Network Rail will focus on electrifying the Great Western Main Line to Swansea and the Cardiff Valley lines. There will also be major re-signalling work to bring more reliable services between Flint and Llandudno.

Elsewhere, the plan provides for £200 million in investment in the Strategic Freight Network to support a 30 per cent increase in freight capacity by 2019.

Paul Plummer, group strategy director at Network Rail, said: “Britain’s railways are booming, with more people and businesses choosing rail than ever before and passenger satisfaction at record levels. As a business and as an industry, we are better placed than ever before to understand what needs to be done to build on this success and create a better railway which meets the needs of customers in a sustainable way.”

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Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), added: “Early clarity from Government on the franchising and regulatory framework for rail will be vital in allowing train companies, Network Rail and our suppliers to deliver the best possible deal for passengers and taxpayers.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of consumer group Passenger Focus, said: “Passengers will welcome the fact that Network Rail and train companies are working together on a plan to deliver passenger and Government priorities: more trains on time and more seats. Passenger Focus research shows that the three clear priorities for passengers are value for money, reliability and the ability to find a seat.

“This work must be passenger-focussed in the planning and delivery.

“We are interested to see how all this will be paid for. Passengers already put in roughly £2 for every pound spent by the taxpayer. It is critical that the industry tackles its value for money offering, reducing costs without cutting services, to head off another five years of above-inflation fare increases.”

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