Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin toured the East Coast Main Line today (26 June 2014) to see how more than £130 million of rail improvements are being used to boost capacity and provide better journeys for passengers.
Services on the East Coast Main Line, one of the country’s most iconic rail routes linking some of the biggest towns and cities in England and Scotland, are set to be transformed thanks to significant levels of investment. Later this year the government will confirm a new partner to operate services on the route and the benefits this will bring for passengers.
The line will also benefit from the government’s £5.7 billion Intercity Express Programme, which will see a new fleet of state-of-the-art trains bringing improvements for passengers including reduced journey times, more seats and improved reliability. The trains will be assembled at Hitachi Rail Europe’s purpose-built factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, creating hundreds of local jobs.
During stops at Doncaster, Peterborough and Hitchin, the Transport Secretary viewed recent Network Rail improvements along the route.
As part of the tour, he officially opened the North Doncaster Chord, a £45 million railway flyover at Shaftholme that will help pave the way for additional passenger trains by removing slow-moving freight services from the East Coast Main Line. A level crossing has also been closed and replaced with a new road bridge in order to reduce delays.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:
In order to secure long-term economic growth, we need a world-class railway that works well for both passengers and industry. That is why more than £38 billion will be spent over the next 5 years to improve and maintain the network.
The North Doncaster Chord will help in freeing up space for much-needed additional passenger services between Yorkshire and London and reduce delays, while also improving the vital freight network across the region.
The Chord will carry around 30 freight services above the East Coast Main Line every day, slashing the time taken to transport coal between the Humber ports and the Aire Valley power stations by up to 30 minutes. Cutting journey times also reduces fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Previously, these services had to run on the East Coast Main Line for up to 14 miles.
By removing freight trains from the main line, and by replacing a nearby level crossing with a new road bridge, delays to passenger services will be reduced, and help in creating capacity for additional trains to run in future.
Earlier in the day, the Transport Secretary viewed the recently-opened Hitchin Flyover, a £47 million scheme to remove a major bottleneck on the line. This allows First Capital Connect services travelling between London and Cambridge to travel above the East Coast Main Line, preventing the need for them to cross the route and reducing delays by around 30,000 minutes a year.
The increased capacity it creates will also allow for faster and more spacious Intercity Express trains to be introduced on the East Coast Main Line from 2018 onwards.
The Transport Secretary also had the chance to see how a £43 million improvement scheme has transformed Peterborough Station. Network Rail engineers have installed 3 new platforms, new lifts providing access to all platforms, as well as improvements to the concourse with better lighting, new customer information boards and more comfortable seating to improve the experience for passengers.
The work on the platforms will improve reliability by separating long-distance, local, passenger and freight services. It will also allow longer trains to be accommodated, paving the way for the new Thameslink and Intercity Express trains.
Patrick McLoughlin added:
We are investing record amounts in the biggest programme of rail modernisation since the Victorian age. These improvements will make a real difference to passengers across the East Coast Main Line, ultimately providing more services, more seats, fewer delays and a comfortable travelling experience.
All 3 improvement schemes were carried out by Network Rail. Phil Verster, Route Managing Director for Network Rail, said:
The East Coast Main line is a vital route which connects businesses and communities between London and Scotland. Demand for rail services continues to grow. Over the past five years we have invested £600 million in a programme of targeted investment on the line to meet that demand.
It was our pleasure to show the Secretary of State around 3 of the projects which have made up this investment. At Peterborough we have improved track and signalling as well as the station itself to improve performance and facilities for passengers. Both Hitchin and North Doncaster unlock bottlenecks and improve the flow of trains, further boosting performance and reliability as well as helping us to meet future demand.
Work is already underway on the East Coast Main Line on a further £1.6 billion investment. We will deliver this over the next 5 years, to further boost passenger services while accommodating freight flows, which are essential to all of our lives.