Passengers are being advised to check before they travel over the May Day bank holiday period as Network Rail carries out upgrades to improve many parts of the railway. An army of 14,000 track workers will be deployed around the country undertaking projects costing some £50 million. Major worksites include Glasgow, Crewe, Stafford and several locations in Greater London – but Network Rail says 95 per cent of the rail system will be unaffected.
Government 'played down' railfreight benefits
The Campaign for Better Transport has accused the Government of playing down the benefits of moving freight from roads to railways and canals because of the system of 'national average' measurement it used. The CBT is claiming that HGV traffic could fall by 21 per cent and congestion be reduced by 15-25 per cent if rail and water freight is increased by 50 per cent on particularly congested routes, especially those to ports.
SNP could change route priorities for HS2
The Scottish National Party has launched its manifesto today, but it is also warning that if it gains the balance of power in a coalition with Labour, it could insist on changes to the HS2 project so that construction starts from Scotland rather than between London and Birmingham. The latest polls in Scotland suggest that the SNP is likely to gain Labour seats north of the border, and that a Lab-SNP coalition at Westminster is a possibility after the election if the Conservatives lose ground.
RMT members to vote after Network Rail pay talks fail
Pay talks between Network Rail and the RMT have broken down, and the union said it will now ballot 16,000 staff over industrial action. The failure of the negotiations will cause widespread concern across the railway industry, and the dispute also threatens to become an election issue. Network Rail said it was experiencing 'financial pressures' and that its offer is fair, but the RMT has condemned the proposed deal as 'wholly inadequate'.
LibDems go electric, while UKIP would scrap HS2
The Liberal Democrat manifesto has promised that the 'overwhelming majority' of the rail network will be electrified and more stations and lines opened under their plans for transport, while the Ukip manifesto opposes road charging but gives no indication of any plans for rail transport, apart from saying that 'HS2 is an unaffordable white elephant' which 'must face the axe'.
Conservatives promise more electrification
The Conservative manifesto has indicated that present railway electrification projects would be extended to south west England and more lines in East Anglia if the party forms the next government. The manifesto reaffirms Conservative backing for HS2 and HS3, and also promises to 'push forward' with plans for Crossrail 2 in London.
Labour pledges fares freeze next year
The Labour Party has published its manifesto. Key points are a review of passenger rail franchises, including the creation of a 'new National Rail body' which will 'oversee and plan for the
railways and give rail users a greater say in how trains operate'. The party will also freeze fares next year, and continue to support the construction of HS2.