Government slams brakes on �38.5bn rail upgrade

The Government announced it will delay and cut back a number of upgrade projects planned for Network Rail.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said increasing costs and missed targets made the £38.5bn plan untenable, pointing the finger at Network Rail and saying it should have foreseen delays in improvements.

By its own standards, Network Rail said the plan was too ambitious, despite being the “largest modernisation of the railways since Victorian times”. Network Rail controls 2,500 stations as well as track, tunnels and level crossings.

The Trans-Pennine York-Manchester route was shelved, as well as the Midland Mainline York-Sheffield, with the Great Western Mainline to go ahead.

McLoughlin said electrification work would be paused on the Midland mainline and on the Trans-Pennine route between Leeds and Manchester, but “electrification of the Great Western Line is a top priority and I want Network Rail to concentrate its efforts on getting that right.”

Commenting on the announcement today Frances O’Grady, the general secretary at TUC, said:

“Years of rip-off privatisation have left our railways starved of investment. Delaying much-needed upgrade work for the Midland Mainline and North Trans Pennine routes is the last thing passengers need.

“Putting the brakes on railway modernisation will mean longer journey times and extending the lifetime of trains built in the 1980s.

“Today’s decision is also bad for regional growth and jobs. How can the government expect to build a northern powerhouse if it is unwilling to stump up funds for vital transport links and infrastructure?”

The news comes as the latest rail passenger satisfaction survey was released, with travellers in London and south-east England the least happy with their service, according to Transport Focus. Passenger satisfaction in this region has fallen from 82 per cent last year to 80 per cent this year. Satisfaction on First Hull Trains was highest at 96 per cent, while Southern was the lowest at 72 per cent.

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