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£38 billion of rail network improvements announced

Words: Roger Milne
Railway repairs and improvements

Network Rail today pledged to spend £38 billion over the next five years to relieve overcrowding, upgrade outdated stations, replace and renew older parts of the network.

The railway owner promised that the investment will “transform today’s railway”, making a “very real difference to millions of people’s lives and providing a significant boost to the economy”.

Among the plans promised are 170,000 extra seats for peak time commuters, 850 more miles of electrified line and remodelled stations in Birmingham, Manchester and London.

Improvements include schemes already under way, as well as new projects. In the “Northern Hub”, for example, Network Rail forecasts hundreds more trains a day between cities in the north of England. Meanwhile, the completion of Crossrail and Thameslink is expected to increase London’s commuter rail capacity bv 20 per cent.

The £38bn figure also includes the costs of day-to-day maintenance of the network, which amounts to around £13bn over the five-year period.

The company, which gets it income from a combination of government grants, operating fees and commercial activities, will be borrowing in the region of £11 billion to help fund the projects under the umbrella of the five-year improvement programme. By the end of March 2019, Network Rail expects the UK railway network to be carrying more passengers than at any other point in its history.

The firm’s chief executive Mark Carne said: “This investment responds to the growth and demands being placed upon us by delivering bigger, better stations, more trains and seats, reopened railway lines and fewer level crossings.

“We all want an improving, safer, successful and better value railway for everyone, and that is what we will do.”

Capital expenditure: £13bn

£13bn will be invested in capital expenditure projects to relieve overcrowding by building new tracks, uncorking bottlenecks, increasing capacity and upgrading outdated stations.

This will include:

- hundreds more trains per day and faster journeys between key cities in the north of England
- completion of Thamelink and Crossrail projects in London, increasing commuter capacity by 20 per cent
- electrification of 850 miles of line, including the Great Western Main Line from Maidenhead to Swansea
- More than 30 miles of new railway and seven new stations reconnecting the border towns of Scotland with Edinburgh for the first time in 50 years
- remodelling of stations including Birmingham New Street, Manchester Victoria and Glasgow Queen Street.

Renewal of ageing network

£12bn will be invested in replacing and renewing older parts of the network, to include:

- 7,000km of track and 6,000 sets of points renewed or refurbished
- 7,000km of fencing and almost 300,000m2 of platforms at stations replaced or renewed.

Day-to-day maintenance

£13bn will be spent on day-to-day maintenance and the costs of operating the network.

Network Rail has also pledged to improve train punctuality to 92.5 per cent and reduce the cost of running the railway by 20 per cent.

Carne also said the company would improve the network’s resilience in the face of extreme weather and changing climate. By September, a series of ten route-based climate change strategies will be published, setting out specific measures to be taken.

"Britain’s railways are a vital part of our national infrastructure,” he said. “They connect homes and workplaces, businesses with markets, they create jobs, stimulate trade and support the growth of a balanced economy.

“We are good at delivering projects both great and small and at providing a safe and reliable railway but want to do even more for the people that rely on our railway network.”

In figures

170,000 extra seats at peak time
850 miles of electrified line
7,000km of track and 6,000 sets of points renewed or refurbished
300,000m2 of platforms at stations replaced or renewed