UK Government Publish Future Rail Strategy
A new UK Government White Paper promising improved rail infrastructure, an overhaul in fare systems and new commuter rail links across the country has been welcomed by the rail industry who say companies can now prepare for the extra work.
In its paper entitled Delivering a Sustainable Railway, the government has promised additional capacity including a £370m ‘Access for All’ programme, providing a network of stations with step-free access due to be completed in 2015.
Within 10 years the government envisages combining rail travel and tickets with other services by using ‘e-money’.
The government also plans to simplify the fares system by introducing Smartcards in all major cities. Inter-city fares will also be available for purchase via mobile phones to cut queues at ticket offices.
An additional £200m will also be invested to enable work to start on a strategic freight network.
The UK’s Railway Industry Association welcomes the plans by the UK Department for Transport saying that companies can now focus on extra workloads.
“The documents issued today, together with the rolling stock plan to follow by next January, will help give companies the confidence to invest in staff and equipment for the future, to the long-term benefit of the railway, passengers and the tax payer,” says Rail Industry Association (RIA) Director-General Jeremy Candfield.
But while the Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) welcomed the plans, General Secretary Bob Crow says they should not be a reason to forego future planning for rail in the UK.
“The infrastructure projects announced today are a step in the right direction, but we also need to see a commitment to a new north-south high-speed link, and the go-ahead for the London Crossrail project, which has been delayed for far too long,” Crow says.
“We need a rail fares system that is going to encourage more people out of their cars and onto trains, but that will not be achieved by signing off franchise agreements that allow massive fares hikes.”
The new proposals include:
*A £5.5bn London Thameslink Programme, with 12-carriage trains running through central London at a frequency of 24 trains an hour by 2015.
*A £600m project to tackle congestion at Reading station and Birmingham New Street in the Midlands.
*A number of individual schemes to lengthen platforms, upgrade electricity supply and provide more depots.