£1.1bn rail upgrade announced

Author: By Alan Jones, PA

Only a third of Britain’s rail network is electrified, far less than other
European countries.

The government said the proposals would help employment and industry including
tourism and freight, boosting Britain’s competitiveness with European
partners.

Britain is battling its deepest recession since World War Two and unemployment
is at its highest level for over a decade.

The government, facing an election within a year and trailing in opinion
polls, has brought forward capital spending to try to hasten the recovery.

The lines between London and Swansea, in south Wales, and between Liverpool
and Manchester in northwest England will be upgraded in the first major
electrification project since the late 1980s. Diesel trains currently run on
both routes.

Journey times between Manchester and Liverpool are expected to be cut to 30
minutes from 44. Trips from Swansea to London will be 19 minutes faster
after the eight-year project.

“This is the biggest electrification programme for a generation and a vital
part of our rail investment and carbon reduction strategies,” said Transport
Secretary Andrew Adonis.

“It will be of huge benefit to passengers who will gain from faster, cleaner
and more reliable trains,” he added.

The short-term cost of infrastructure company Network Rail’s financing will be
met by the government, and there will be no impact on other Network Rail
investment programmes in the five years to 2014, the Department of Transport
said.

The electrification programme will pay for itself over the long term through
lower train leasing, maintenance and operating costs, it added.

FirstGroup operates the main franchise between London and south Wales and also
runs trains between Liverpool and Manchester.

Northern Rail, owned by Serco Group Plc and Dutch NedRailways, also operates
services between the two major northern cities. Both companies welcomed the
plan.

“Lord Adonis’s announcement is good news for our customers on these routes,”
FirstGroup Chief Executive Moir Lockhead said in a statement.

“The electrification of the Great Western Main Line will allow us to operate a
very large proportion of customer journeys into and out of London Paddington
with electric trains, which maximises the environmental, reliability and
journey time benefits electrification can bring,” he added.

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