Thursday, May 15, 2008

Birmingham new street at the heart of strategy for rail growth

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly has approved a £120 million grant for the development of Birmingham's New Street station and additional carriages will be provided in Birmingham to help relieve crowding.

The money will be used to dramatically improve access at the station and will increase the number of passengers it can handle by 50 per cent. It is anticipated that work will start in early 2009 and be completed by early 2015.

More will be invested in tackling key congestion pinch points in the West Midlands and these improvements will help increase capacity - up by 26 per cent on peak hour services into Birmingham.

The Government spending is included in today's rail White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Railway, which guarantees a railway that will expand to carry at least 183 million more passengers a year.

The Transport Secretary announced that capacity will expand to accommodate growth of more than 20% in the next seven years, on a network which will be even safer and more reliable.

The strategy also allows for a doubling in capacity over 30 years through continual and rational growth of a rail network which is flexible enough to respond to changing passenger demand.

It must also be a railway which sharpens its environmental performance and thrives on new technology, the strategy makes clear.

Precise, costed plans for the near future include approval for the £5.5 billion Thameslink project, the major redevelopment of Birmingham New Street to improve passenger capacity and station environment and works at Reading stations to eliminate a major the bottlenecks on the network, and £200 million to start work on a strategic freight network.

Major cities around the country will benefit from extra capacity - with the Government delivering 1,300 extra carriages in the years to 2014 with associated platform lengthening, power supply upgrades and increased depot capacity. Up to £10 billion will be invested in growing capacity in this period.

Ms Kelly said:

"Our railway is flourishing and in this White Paper we show how we will grow and develop the network for decades to come.

"Passengers in the West Midlands want not only more capacity and reliability on their trains but also more modern stations, simple and efficient ticketing, quality of service and value for money. They're right to be so demanding and this strategy can deliver what they want - as our spending on Birmingham New Street shows.

"Steady investment has given us a rail network which is in good shape for the first time in a generation and this means we can be ambitious for its future. It should be a railway which helps power economic growth and enhances the quality of our lives. We can't know precisely what our railway will look like in 30 years time but now we can be confident of making it bigger, stronger and more flexible."

Ms Kelly also announced that the Government will continue to limit fare increases under its control (including standard season tickets and savers) to no more than one per cent above inflation. A new simplified fares structure will introduce just four basic ticket types across the country.

More than 150 stations will be refurbished and upgraded at a cost of £150 million. The list is likely to include Wolverhampton and Stratford-upon-Avon.

The Government formally submitted its spending plans (including the High Level Output Specification) today for approval by the Office of Rail Regulation.

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