Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Resurgent railway gets strategy for 30 years of growth

A railway that will expand to carry at least 180 million more passengers is at the heart of the Department for Transport's rail White Paper, published today.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly announced that capacity will increase to cope with more than 20 per cent growth in the next seven years, on a network which will be even safer and more reliable.

The strategy, Delivering a Sustainable Railway, also allows for potential 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, major redevelopments at Birmingham New Street and Reading stations to eliminate the system's biggest bottlenecks, 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. More than £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 want not only more capacity and reliability on their trains but also more modern stations, simple and efficient ticketing, better quality of service and value for money. They're right to be so demanding and this strategy can deliver what they want.

"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 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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