After House of Lords debacle, Cameron and Clegg put on show of unity to reveal investment in railways
- It is hoped a string of announcements on infrastructure spending this week will lift Britain out of recession
- A total of £5.2 billion worth of rail projects have already been committed to for the period between 2014 and 2019
By James Chapman and Ray Massey
PUBLISHED: 18:32 EST, 15 July 2012 | UPDATED: 04:13 EST, 16 July 2012
David Cameron and Nick Clegg have put the Coalition back on track as they announced the biggest investment in Britain’s railways since the age of steam.
In the first of a series of announcements designed to kickstart the flatlining economy, the Prime Minister and his Liberal Democrat deputy appeared together at a rail depot in the Midlands to announce a £9billion investment programme.
After last week’s acrimonious split between the Tories and the Lib Dems over reform of the House of Lords, Mr Cameron is seeking to remind voters of the Coalition’s three core purposes – paying off the deficit left behind by Labour and reviving the economy; reforming welfare; and transforming education.
Warning on in-fighting: David Cameron and Nick Clegg
Mr Cameron yesterday called on the two parties to provide ‘strong, decisive and united government’, warning that the public would not tolerate in-fighting at a time of economic insecurity.
The Government is planning a string of announcements on infrastructure spending this week, hoping investment in roads, rail, power stations, housing developments and other big schemes will lift Britain out of recession.
The Treasury has been working on schemes that will see large infrastructure projects and housing developments guaranteed by the State. Essentially, the Treasury will act as a backstop to reduce the risks for investors.
As much as £40billion is expected to be ploughed in, with British pension funds acting as one of the main sources of cash.
Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg said today that more than £9billion is to be spent on the most significant rail improvement programme since the Victorian era, extending the switch from dirty diesel to cleaner, more reliable electric power.
A total of £5.2 billion worth of projects have already been committed to for the period between 2014 and 2019.
These include completion of the ongoing Crossrail and Thameslink schemes, and electrification between London and Cardiff, Manchester to Liverpool and Preston and across the Pennines.
The £4.2 billion worth of new schemes include upgrades to stations and tracks creating enough capacity around cities for an additional 140,000 daily rail commutes at peak times. This includes £350 million for lengthening of platforms at London’s Waterloo station;
Faster journeys and more train capacity from £240 million of improvements along the East Coast Main Line from north east England down through Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire to London;
The creation of a high-capacity 'electric spine' running from Yorkshire and the West Midlands to South Coast ports. This comprises an £800 million electrification and upgrade from Sheffield - through Nottingham, Derby and Leicester - to Bedford, completing the full electrification of the Midland Main Line out of London St Pancras and electrification of the lines from Nuneaton and Bedford to Oxford, Reading, Basingstoke and Southampton;
Taking electric rail beyond Cardiff to Swansea, completing the full electrification of the Great Western Main Line out of London Paddington at a total cost of more than £600 million, and electrifying the Welsh Valley lines, including Ebbw Vale, Maesteg and the Vale of Glamorgan.
Completion in full of the 'Northern Hub' cluster of rail enhancements with the approval of £322 million of outstanding track and capacity upgrades across Manchester city centre, Manchester Airport and across to Liverpool.
These are in addition to £477 million of Northern Hub schemes already approved across the north of England such as electrification of the North Trans-Pennine route between York and Manchester.
Union leader Bob Crow has said the government needs to act on these plans now
A new £500 million rail link between the Great Western Main Line and Heathrow.
By the end of the decade, around three quarters of passenger miles travelled in England and Wales will be on electric trains, compared with 58 per cent today.
As well as boosting the economy, the project is designed to ensure trains run on time and more often.
More than 850 extra miles of electrified line will be added to the rail network, including a central ‘spine’ stretching from Sheffield in the North to Southampton in the South, and extending to towns and cities such as Derby, Nottingham, Corby, Nuneaton, Coventry, Oxford and Reading.
Some of the £9billion investment will be borrowed by Network Rail, some will be direct government funding, and some will be from the letting of rail franchises, as well as from cost and efficiency savings.
But travellers will have to pay for the improvements through steep ticket price rises. Average fares are set to go up by around 6 per cent in the next two years, although some could rise into double figures.
Stephen Joseph of the Campaign for Better Transport said: ‘Whilst we welcome more investment in rail, massive fare increases shouldn’t be used to pay for it.’
Transport Secretary Justine Greening said: 'Investment on this scale, in every region of the country, shows how this coalition Government is focused on delivering an affordable, reliable and faster railway network that drives jobs and growth.
'These plans to increase capacity and shorten journey times on intercity, commuter and freight services are, alongside our plans for high speed rail, absolutely key to securing our country’s prosperity in the decades ahead.'
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: “What we need is investment in rail today, not yet another political promise of jam tomorrow.
'All of the rail projects on this shopping list have been talked about for years and, with the surge in passenger demand, we cannot afford further delays like the ongoing Thameslink fleet replacement fiasco.
'We have the chance to create thousands of rail jobs if the politicians wake up and get these projects moving.'
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