£1.1bn rail lines project unveiled

Author: By Peter Woodman and Joe Churcher, Press Association

The Prime Minister arrived at Paddington station in London to journey on the
Great Western line to Cardiff for a Cabinet meeting.

The Great Western route from London to Swansea is to be electrified over the
next eight years at a cost of £1 billion.

The Government is also spending £100 million on electrifying lines between
Liverpool and Manchester, with the work taking four years.

At Paddington today, Mr Brown said: “This is the future. It is green, it
is faster and it’s more reliable. This is about making the railways fit for
the 21st century.”

Asked if the Government could afford such a scheme now, Mr Brown replied: “We
have set aside money for this. It’s an important priority for us.”

Only about one third of the rail network is electrified at the moment, with
the Great Western route the last of the major routes to be still
predominantly using diesel trains.

The Great Western electrification will include the lines to Oxford and to
Newbury in Berkshire and will also make possible the direct replacement of
the ageing InterCity 125 fleet by electric Super Express trains.

Electrification will shorten the London to Swansea journey time – currently
just over three hours – by about 20 minutes.

Travelling with Mr Brown today was Transport Secretary Lord Adonis, who said: “We
are electrifying 300 miles of track and we are also looking to extend
electrification to other lines.

“There will be some disruptions while the work is going on but Network
Rail plan to keep disruption to a minimum, with much of the work being done
overnight.”

Lord Adonis went on: “Electrification will mean faster, quieter and more
efficient trains, which break down far less often.”

Mark Hopwood, managing director of First Great Western, said: “We are
really delighted with this news. It’s going to transform our route and
provide cleaner and more environmentally friendly travel.”

The electrification announcement follows Network Rail’s consultation document
on electrification earlier this year, which also made the case for
electrifying the Midland Main Line route.

Lord Adonis said today that the Government did consider Midland Main Line and
would continue to consider it.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus,
said: “Passengers will welcome today’s news.

“Extending electrification will improve services in the long term,
reducing the pressure on the industry’s costs and potentially lowering
fares. Electrification will also improve reliability and potentially speed
up services, which could reduce journey times.

“Passengers tell us that more trains, punctual services and getting a
seat should be the industry’s top priority and electrification will help
address these.

“We welcome the speed of this decision and look forward to participating
in the next stage of electrification to be considered.”

Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating
Companies, said: “The announcement is excellent news and a clear
demonstration of strong Government commitment to modern rail transport.

“The electrification schemes will bring real benefits to passengers and
the environment.”

Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said: “Today is a good start,
but there is much further to go. We have been pushing for electrification
for a long time.

“We will deliver the schemes announced today. Passengers will soon reap
the benefits that electrified lines bring – quieter and smoother rides on
trains that cause less wear and tear to the track, trains that are more
reliable and often faster.

“Also, further electrification will also help open up more diversionary
routes so that we can keep people on trains and off buses as we carry out
planned rail improvement work.”

Campaign for Better Transport executive director Stephen Joseph said: “We
warmly welcome this announcement. It will bring us closer to European
standards in rail travel, with better and more reliable trains with lower
emissions.

“However, this must not be used as an excuse to increase fares that
already the highest in Europe, as is happening with the new Kent high-speed
services.

“Electrification brings wider benefits in cutting pollution and
attracting people out of cars. These need to be paid for by the Government
rather than by rail passengers.”

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