railway infrastructure

Major rail investment needed to cope with booming passenger numbers

Investment in new UK rail infrastructure is needed if train service frequency is to increase fast enough to meet growing passenger demand, according to a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The study, in conjunction with the Transport Research Laboratory, also recommends that British research and development funding should be increased to replace the impending loss of EU support following Brexit.

IMechE’s head of transport, and co-lead author of the report, Philippa Oldham, said: “Although there are already exciting projects nearing completion, such as Crossrail, these are largely about catching up with underinvestment over the past 100 years.

“With demand set to double in the next 30 years, we need to step up efforts to ease crowding, improve punctuality and unlock further capacity.

“Relieving bottlenecks using flyovers and shorter signalling sections are some of the proposals in this report.

“The engineering proposals for UK rail capacity improvement are made in the context of much needed transport infrastructure investment, where the UK falls 40 per cent short of recommendations by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.”

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators and Network Rail, welcomed the study and said major work is already ongoing to improve services as part of the £50 billion Railway Upgrade Plan.

He went on: “With many parts of the rail network increasingly full, initiatives such as the digital railway will be vital in releasing extra capacity to support future rail growth and reduce disruption.

“Cross-industry collaboration will be vital in bringing forward this plan as efficiently and quickly as possible.”

In the last Autumn Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced plans to digitise the railways to allow trains to operate closer together, enabling more services to run without building new lines. £450m was set aside for the project. 

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