UK government outlines plans for rail transport

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The "Delivering a Sustainable Railway" white paper
Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly
Image: Andrew Skudder.

The government of the United Kingdom has outlined its plans for the development of the Britain's railway network in a white paper presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly.

Ruth Kelly described the report as "the most ambitious strategy for growth on the railways in over 50 years" and announced that capacity will be increased to cope with an expected 20% growth in passenger numbers over the next seven years through a £10 billion investment.

The government is to continue to limit the rate of increase of regulated tickets, which include standard season and saver tickets, to a maximum of 1% above inflation, and plan to introduce a simplified ticketing structure of four basic ticket types.

Today's announcement also extended the government's commitment made in March of this year to fund extra carriages. An additional 300 brings the total to 1,300 carriages to be acquired to relieve overcrowding.

The impact of the investment the government has outlined will be concentrated in tackling areas of high overcrowding on the rail network. In particular, Ms Kelly has highlighted a number of key projects. These include the improvement of Reading and Birmingham New Street stations and the approval of the Thameslink modernisation programme.

150 stations across the network will be upgraded and refurbished at a cost of £150 million.

The largest opposition party, the Conservative Party, greeted the release with much scepticism, saying that the paper contains "reheated announcements that are years later than promised". A spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats described it as a "missed opportunity" to encourage more people to use trains in favour of cars or planes and suggested that much of the investment outlined in the document had been announced before.

George Muir, of the Association of Train Operating Companies which represents the companies providing passenger train services on the British rail network, said that the white paper is the "first plausible plan for expanding the railway" in recent years.