This statement sets out the government’s plans for investment in rail infrastructure and rolling stock. It builds on the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the outcome of the spending review.
Over the next 4 years, we will provide £14 billion of funding to Network Rail to support capital maintenance and infrastructure investment; and £750 million for high speed rail. We will also fund the Crossrail project, the Tube upgrade programme, light rail projects in Birmingham, Tyneside, Nottingham and Sheffield; and provide additional funding to franchisees for extra rolling stock.
Today (25 November 2010), I can confirm we will fund and deliver the Thameslink programme in its entirety, virtually doubling the number of north-south trains running through central London at peak times. But the original programme for the rebuilding of London Bridge was always ambitious, with substantial risks around delivery, and operation of existing services, during construction. To reduce these risks, we have re-profiled the delivery of the programme to achieve completion in 2018. This will enable Network Rail to make further efficiencies to their design and delivery programme.
As part of the Thameslink programme, we will procure a new fleet of trains - up to 1200 new carriages. This is in addition to around 600 new carriages which will be provided for the Crossrail project. The new Thameslink and Crossrail rolling stock will enable the redeployment of hundreds of serviceable electric carriages currently used on Thameslink services. These carriages belong to rolling-stock leasing companies, but we expect they will be available at competitive leasing prices for re-use elsewhere, thus justifying further electrification of our network.
As a first step, Network Rail will electrify the commuter services on the Great Western Main Line from London to Didcot, Oxford and Newbury over the next 6 years. Electric trains will speed up journeys, improve reliability and reduce the impact on the environment. Network Rail will also electrify the lines between Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Blackpool - an investment of up to £300 million. Work is expected to begin next year and to be finished in 2016. As with Thameslink, we expect Network Rail to keep a tight rein on costs.
The redeployment of electric rolling stock to these routes will, in turn, free up hundreds of diesel units which will be available to train operators to lease as they become available in the period after 2015.
I can also today confirm that an additional 650 carriages will have been delivered to the network between 6 May 2010 and March 2014. This is in addition to the Thameslink and Crossrail carriages I have already mentioned.
We have funding confirmed for developments at Reading, Birmingham, London Kings Cross and Gatwick Airport. In addition, investments on the East Coast Main Line and Midland Main Line and improvements in Yorkshire, on trans-Pennine routes, around Manchester and in South Wales will improve line speed, reliability and capacity of services.
Beyond these investments in the commuter railway, there are far-reaching decisions to be made about intercity services. The Intercity Express Programme, launched by the previous government, identified the Agility Trains consortium as preferred bidder to build a new fleet of intercity trains. This February, my predecessors invited Sir Andrew Foster, to provide an independent assessment of the programme. Sir Andrew recommended work on the Agility Trains proposal and a detailed study of the alternatives. Following this work, the four options Sir Andrew identified, have been narrowed down to two. I have ruled out the option of requiring passengers to interchange from electric to diesel trains, recognising the value to passengers of preserving through-journeys. I have also ruled out the option of a wholesale refurbishment of the existing diesel ‘Intercity 125’ fleet, some of which dates back to the 1970s.
The remaining options are, on the one hand a revised, lower cost Agility Trains proposal, which envisages a mixed fleet: some all-electric trains, and some electric trains which are also equipped with underfloor diesel engines. And on the other, a fleet of new all-electric trains which could be coupled to new diesel locomotives where the overhead electric power lines end. Both these options would allow us to preserve through-journeys between London and parts of the rail network which are not electrified. Both of them would deliver faster journey times. For example, we expect to see a time saving of at least 15 minutes, for the journey between Cardiff and London bringing it below 2 hours.
This is a major decision which will affect intercity rail travel for decades, and we must get it right. To address outstanding issues on choice of train type and further electrification on the Great Western Main Line, additional work will be required within the Department, with Agility Trains, and with the Welsh Assembly Government on the business case for electrification into Wales. I expect to announce a final decision on IEP, and on further Great Western electrification, in the New Year.
This package I have announced today has only been possible because this government has been prepared to take the tough decisions to protect investment in Britain’s future. I will make a further oral statement to the House on the issues raised in this statement later today.