A Boost for the Railway Industry

Mark Sandford - August 2012
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A fortnight ago, the coalition announced a huge investment in railway infrastructure amounting to 9 billion to be spent from 2014 onwards. This recognises the fact that more and more people are travelling by rail than ever before, which acknowledges the progress made over several years after privatisation. The package includes electrification of the Midland Main line between Bedford and Sheffield plus electrification of the Welsh valley lines. More money will also be spent on projects around Manchester to improve rail capacity across the north of England. 5 billion of this package will be used to fund current infrastructure projects to completion such as Cross rail.

Another train contract awarded to Agility Trains, a consortium formed between Hitachi and the UK builder John Laing will create 900 new jobs within Britain. The British firm will build a new factory in Newton Aycliffe in the north east that will ultimately construct new Intercity trains intended for the East Coast line. The 92 trains will replace older capacity on the East Coast line from 2018 onwards. 200 people will be initially employed on construction of the new plant. This award also secures thousands of jobs across the UK supply chain.

Between 2009 and 2010, the travelling public made almost 1.4 billion rail journeys across franchised networks, an increase of over 50 % since the beginning of the rail privatisation process. This illustrates the success of new investment over years not just in new track but also in new locomotives annd rolling stock to improve the daily lot of commuters. The terrible accident at Hatfield also demonstrates that more has to be done as regards management of rail maintenance but hard lessons have been learned.

The road network in this country has become clogged to death and not just in London and the South East. Therefore it is everyone's interest that more money goes into the rail network to shift more passengers and freight. This would ease current congestion on Britain's roads but make environmental sense as well. Those householders protesting about the proposed new line HS2 might reflect for one moment that a new dual carriageway or motorway would also incur an environmental cost and perhaps a greater one at that. Ultimately these persons moved into rural areas to take advantage of rising house prices and were only able to do so as either the husband or the wife or both were in very good jobs. They should all take a step back and realise that this new line would help creation of more jobs in the Midlands and North where they are badly needed. It may cause dislocation for some, but this is the price of progress.

(see www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18979836 or www.rail-reg.gov.uk)

Mark Sandford - Permission granted to freely distribute this article for non-commercial purposes if attributed to Mark Sandford, unedited and copied in full, including this notice.

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