Major GBP 1.1bn investment in electric rail boosts travel, the economy and the environment

The Government will announce a major programme of modernisation and investment today to help create a 21st century railway, improve passenger journeys, cut carbon emissions and boost the economy. The Prime Minister and Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis will unveil £1.1bn plans for the first big electrification of the rail network since the late 1980s, involving the London to Swansea and Liverpool to Manchester lines. It will mean the first electric main line trains ever running in Wales.

Work will start immediately on these two railways as this significant investment in Britain’s infrastructure brings real benefits for passengers, including travelling on faster, greener and more reliable electric trains with more seats.

Electrification will stimulate further intercity and regional transport improvements across the country. For example, it will enable electric train services to run from Manchester and its airport to Glasgow and Edinburgh and open up the option of extending Crossrail to Reading. 

Completing work on the first two railways will increase the proportion of electric train journeys in Britain from 60% to 67% - currently only 33% of Britain’s rail network is electrified.  There were about 21 million passenger journeys on the Great Western line alone in the last financial year and over 1 million passenger journeys on the Liverpool-Manchester railway. 

Work will start immediately and for Liverpool-Manchester will be completed within four years and for London-Swansea within eight years, although stages in between will be completed earlier.

The Great Western electrification will include the lines to Oxford and Newbury. It will also make possible the direct replacement of the ageing Intercity 125 fleet by electric Super Express intercity trains, and by hybrid diesel/ electric Super Express trains to serve destinations beyond the electrified network. This, and other replacements of diesel by electric trains, will yield significant savings in train leasing and operating costs, as well as benefiting passengers with more reliable and quieter trains.

First Minister for Wales Rhodri Morgan will also join the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary today at Cardiff to mark the announcement which will significantly strengthen the rail connection between England and Wales.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

“To build a better Britain, we must be bold, innovative and forward-looking and invest with confidence in our country’s transport infrastructure, jobs and industry. This electrification programme is vital to building a 21st century transport system.”

Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis said:

“It is essential that we invest in our railways now and over the longer term. This is the biggest electrification programme for a generation and a vital part of our rail investment and carbon reduction strategies. It will be of huge benefit to passengers who will gain from faster, cleaner and more reliable trains.

“Electrification of the Great Western Mainline will bring significant new strategic opportunities for developing rail services. In particular it would be possible to run Crossrail services west of the existing proposed terminus at Maidenhead, through to Reading. I look forward to discussing with the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, the potential for developing new services and integrating these major Crossrail and electrification programmes.

“Electrification of the Liverpool to Manchester line also makes possible the through-running of electric trains from Manchester Airport and Manchester to Scotland. At present these services are diesel because the last stretch of line into Manchester is not electrified. This will be a major strategic benefit to passengers in the north of England and Scotland.”

First Minister for Wales Rhodri Morgan said:

“I’m delighted that this major modernisation, the first rail electrification in Wales, will boost travel links to and within Wales. It will improve connections between London, Cardiff and Swansea and make a rail journey between London and Swansea almost 20 minutes shorter. We need to work closely now to ensure these exciting plans dovetail with our own National Transport Plan.”

The Government will in the coming months consider the case for further electrification, particularly in respect of the Midland Main Line (between London, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield) and routes between Manchester and Preston and Liverpool and Preston.

The Government also announced today that a new rolling stock deployment plan, taking into account the new electrification, will be published in the autumn.

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