train signalling digital

Grayling denies cutting back on rail projects in North of England

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has hit back at critics accusing him of cancelling rail projects in the North of England.

Grayling stated that he had not cancelled “a single project” for upgrading the rail network and insisted that all planned improvements to services “are going to be delivered”.

His comments follow the cancellation of rail electrification plans for Wales and northern England last summer, which caused a backlash as he simultaneously backed the multi billion-pound Crossrail 2 scheme. 

Grayling made the comments at an event in York to launch Network Rail’s strategy for using digital technology to reduce overcrowding and cut delays.

He said he wants the city to be served by Britain’s first digitally controlled intercity railway - with the system being introduced on the Transpennine route.

Think tank IPPR North claims planned transport investment in London is two-and-a-half times higher per person than in the North.

The capital will receive £4,155 per person compared with just £1,600 in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber regions combined, according to the analysis.

The Government described the figures as “misleading” and “highly unrepresentative”, adding that Transport for London projects should not be included as they receive no central funding.

Last week, Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association, said that Britain’s funding model for its railways followed a boom and bust pattern that is both costly and inefficient.

“I have not cancelled a single project in the north of England. All the passenger benefits that we planned to deliver are going to be delivered,” Grayling said at the event.

“Every train is going to be replaced. The Transpennine upgrade is going to be a huge flagship project for the country. We’ve just finished the electrification of the Liverpool to Manchester railway line. We’re in the process of electrifying from Manchester to Bolton.

“I would challenge anybody who said we’re not doing the right thing for the north of England. We’re spending more money on transport upgrades in the north of England than any government has for decades.”

Grayling announced in York that all new trains and rail signalling will be digital or digital-ready from next year.

Much of Britain’s rail signalling uses Victorian technology, with line-side traffic lights controlling trains.

With more than half of these systems needing to be replaced within the next 15 years, government-owned Network Rail will install digital versions which will enable trains to run closer together, boosting frequency, speed and reliability.

In February 2018, Rail Minister Jo Johnson said he hoped Britain would be able to phase out the use of diesel-only trains completely by 2040. 

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