Unused assets that could be sold off include abandoned depots, land under railway arches and retail space inside stations

Network Rail delays infrastructure projects sells �1.8bn in assets

Network Rail (NR) has announced it is selling off £1.8bn in assets in order to meet the costs of major infrastructure projects.

According to the organisation's chairman, Sir Peter Hendy, the bulk of the upgrade plans that were announced in 2014 are still set to go ahead, but some aspects of it may be delayed until after the original completion dates.

“Passengers and businesses are already benefitting from the largest investment by Government in our railways since Victorian times and that will continue,” said Hendy.

“The extra investment secures a Railway Upgrade Plan that delivers better stations, faster, more frequent and longer trains and a safer and more reliable railway for millions of passengers and businesses.”

The announcement, which came on the same day as the Autumn Statement, follows a review into NR's £12.5bn enhancement plan for 2014-19, which Hendy found was "undeliverable".

Electrification of the Midland Mainline from Sheffield to Bedford is now not set for completion until 2023, and the TransPennine line between Manchester and York by 2022.

It was recently found that the proportion of the UK's rail network that has been electrified has hardly changed over the past ten years, rising from 32 per cent in 2004/05 to just 33 per cent this year.

It emerged last month that the cost of electrification of the Great Western line between London and South Wales could rise to £2.8bn, despite an estimate of £1.6bn given last year.

Hendy said: "Working closely with the Department for Transport we have ensured that no infrastructure project has been cancelled and the bulk of the investment programme will be delivered by March 2019.

"Some projects will cost more and take longer than originally expected, but we will see the job through to deliver better journeys for passengers. My review has clearly found that the original plan was unrealistic and undeliverable.

"This new railway upgrade plan is a more robust and deliverable plan but it is not without its own risks and challenges which Network Rail will work tirelessly to address."

NR became a public body last year, which meant it could no longer borrow money privately to fund enhancements and had to rely on the government, although the Department for Transport has agreed to increase its borrowing limit by £700m.

Unused assets that could be sold off include abandoned depots, land under railway arches and retail space inside stations.

David Sidebottom, passenger director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said:

"For passengers, this follows years of above-inflation fare increases, increasingly crowded trains and disruptive engineering works.

"However, there are delays to schemes and new plans to bring in revenue with the sale of station retail facilities.

"Passengers will want to see that these new plans are robust and can be now be delivered to help rebuild trust."

To view Peter Hendy's full report click here.

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