Posted 29th November 2011 | 17 Comments

Chancellor approves electrification and rail fare restraint

THE CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer has set out plans to invest in more rail electrification, a London Underground extension, a new line from Oxford to Bedford, an accelerated upgrade of Tyne & Wear Metro and more trams for Sheffield.

George Osborne presented his autumn spending review to MPs, saying that his plans would create jobs and make the United Kingdom more competitive.

As part of that aim, he has also confirmed that January's increase in regulated rail fares in England is to be held to RPI plus 1 per cent, rather than the previously-planned RPI plus 3 per cent. Transport for London fares will also rise by the same amount.

However, he said nothing about the possible rises in 2013 and 2014, which had also been planned to be RPI plus 3 per cent.

Network Rail is to receive another £1 billion to invest in the network.

Electrification is to be extended to the TransPennine line between Leeds and Manchester, and the East-West rail link between Oxford, Aylesbury and Bedford has been approved.

In London, a proposed extension of the Northern Line to Battersea has been approved, including two new stations. The chancellor said this scheme alone would create at least 20,000 jobs.

Light rail is to benefit as well, with investment announced for Tyneside and South Yorkshire. The upgrade and modernisation of Tyne and Wear Metro is to be accelerated, and four additional trams are to be bought for Sheffield.

Mr Osborne's plans have triggered a bleak response from the RMT.

The union's general secretary Bob Crow said: "Rather than a thin-scraping of jam tomorrow, robbed from other parts of the cupboard, what Britain needs today is real investment for growth, and we could start by ending the nonsense of sacrificing thousands of manufacturing and supply chain jobs in the East Midlands, which are threatened by shifting train building to Siemens in Germany.

"While George Osborne is talking about some limited investment in transport infrastructure thousands of jobs on the trains, tracks and stations are threatened by the Government’s McNulty rail review. That is a glaring inconsistency that sticks out like a sore thumb."

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, England

    Yet another thought from me. In his announcement Mr Osborne said that, work on the Manchester - Leeds (or wherever) wiring would start next year. Yet I see references in a number of places in the rail press to the work being done, "between 2016 and 2018". As the whole point of this electrification, I thought, was to give the Economy a jump-start, i.e. NOW, how on earth will waiting till 2016 help? It this a case of more weasel words from Westminster? It's not just the actual geographical extent of the wiring which seems to be in a muddle!

    (Editor's note: references to 2016-2018 follow a statement made to the House of Commons Transport Committee by the transport secretary on 14 December.)

  • Robert C, London, UK

    "What surprises me is how rail has come out of these cutbacks relatively unscathed: in fact I doubt whether Labour would have confirmed rail projects to the extent Osborne did today. I am truly perplexed - if he means it, well it won't make me vote Tory, but he must be applauded.
    Jules, lowestoft"

    This is LIBERAL DEMOCRAT policy in action - investment in public transport. The Conservatives on their own have never invested in railways.

  • Chris Philipson, Eastbourne, UK

    How about Brighton main Line 2? This would provide a valuable link from brighton/Eastbourne/Lewes to Tunbridge Wells via several closed routes which history has ultimately shown, should never have been closed in the first place. How often have we seen a line closed only to be followed by a rapid expansion of the town that it once served and then the subsequent congestion on inadequate highways. The A26/A27 is a classic example!

  • Stephen, Luton, UK

    It's nice to see investment in projects that are not so London-centric. Finally the south midlands gets a cross-country east-west line that it desperately needs (to desperately avoid going through London!!). If this could be linked in with HS2 at a parkway station in the Chilterns, it would widen the catchment area further again.

    Not only is this good for the growing conurbation of MK, but also creates a new route for freight to reduce the congestion in the capital.

  • H Harvey, Birmingham

    How abour re opening Stourbridge Dudley Walsall Brownhills Wichnor. Without To avoid Lickey Birmingham Washwood Heath Water Orton Tamworth congestion

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex, England

    The comments about not doing the full trans penine route are typical of this government given that GWR electrification only goes to Oxford and yet services continue on to Banbury. So we end up with end sections mised out which could in fact in this case be a start of extending the wires even further.

    Of course knowing how politicians work the Chancellor will finish the gap in his next budget to great cheers on his side and try and get away with his daft scheme because newspapers are mainly manned by road users who dont use railways!!!

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire, England

    I understand the plaint of Robin Coleman of Auckland; it does seems as if we are never satisfied! But if he bears in mind that the rail line from Liverpool to York and the north is operated as a seamless unit with end-to-end services as the norm he will perhaps understand how peculiar it seems to leave a relatively short unelectrified gap between Leeds and York, requiring bi-mode trains to be used which will be more expensive - or to continue with diesels. Oh yes, ANY electrification is welcome especially in these straitened times, just that this seems so weird and illogical. Now in New Zealand what is needed is wires from Papakura, south of Auckland, through to Tauranga in the east which, en route, will link with the Main Trunk wires already existing from Hamilton to Palmerston North. At least our Mr Osborne has allowed SOME extra wires whereas NZ's Mr Joyce is generally accepted by Kiwis as anti-rail. So perhaps we are lucky after all - wiring gaps not withstanding!

  • Tom, Manchester

    The statement says the Transpennine Route will be electrified. In previous statements from Network Rail and DfT this 'route' has included the Hudderfield Line and the Caldervale Line.. Both of these run through Leeds to York.. And acutally run to Hull and through Blackburn to Blackpool..!

    I find it sooo amusing that the railway industry gets a massive boost yet everyone still can't be happy, stop your moaning until you have seen the details of the plans.

  • Lee, Manchester, England

    It is curious the electrification dosen't extend between Neville Hill and Colton junction. Without this stretch of electrification there would seem to be little benefit in electrifying the Trans-pennine route as diesel trains will still be required to operate services north of Leeds. Furthermore, the electrification of this stretch of the route would also provide the ECML with a diversion route between Colton Junction and Doncaster, that wouldn't require electric services to be dragged between York and Leeds.

    Why not also include the section between Wakefield and Sheffield to connect up with the electrified MML?

  • Robin Coleman, Auckland, New Zealand

    Stop your moaning, your rail transport is light years ahead of this country, be grateful.

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire, England

    Duncan is so-o-o-o right. The fools in Whitehall and Westminster can't even bother to study the rail map of Yorkshire so what could have been something exciting, linking Manchester with the East Coast Main Line at York, and also to Hull ends up as simply daft, idiotic, ridiculous, petering out at Leeds.................... but oh so indicative of their intellectual level! (So how are those transpennine trains supposed to get from Leeds to York and Hull then - coast at as high a speed as they can work up while descending from the Pennines and then lower the pantograph? Ludicrous!!)
    And STILL no progress on converting the Voyagers into bi-modes!!! I have long given up on the whole British political process and its adherents.

  • Mike, york, uk

    The statement refers to some "upgrade" for Leeds-York. Since it's < 20 miles from Leeds to Colton and the electrified ECML, and many TP services run Manchester-Newcastle, how stupid would it be to leave a non-electrified gap!?

  • Lutz, London

    These are all projects that have been brought forward; there is nothing new here apart perhaps from there being no announcement (as far as I am aware) of the MML electrification. I am guessing that the project for the extra electric carriage for the diesel units has been killed off on technical grounds, as seemed likely.

  • Jules, lowestoft

    What surprises me is how rail has come out of these cutbacks relatively unscathed: in fact I doubt whether Labour would have confirmed rail projects to the extent Osborne did today. I am truly perplexed - if he means it, well it won't make me vote Tory, but he must be applauded.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex, England

    I wonder how the East West rail link will go down with the HS2 NIMBYS?

    Perhaps the route should be built as a High Speed Line!!!

    Of course most of the alignment for the section approved still exists and so the importent question is when work will acytually begin and given both ends already exists would it be better to extend from both ends and shold the line be electrified and linked into the East and West coast main lines for electric freight trains?

    As for the Northern line extention costing £700 million + would it not be better VFM to extend the South London Line Overground from Clapham Junction via Nine Elms with similar stations and a link into Vauxhall Station (for Victorai Line interchange something the Northern Line scheme fails to do!) and then onto the abandondobed International platforms at Waterloo Station - with interchange to Bakerloo and Northern lines together with W&C and Jubilee Lines!!

  • Gerry Walker, Abergavenny, Great Britain

    Rhe East West Rail link at last. How about some other re opennings such as Bristol Portishead which would serve thousands and take traffic off congested roads

  • Duncan, Dewsbury, England

    What is the point in just electrifying the line as far as Leeds? All or most of the TP services extend far beyond Leeds. The gap also need filling, at leat between Leeds and Colton Jn.