A series of major modernisation projects planned for Network Rail will be delayed or cut back, the Government has announced.
The plans were due to cost £38.5bn and were heralded as the ‘largest modernisation of the railways since Victorian times’. They included improvements to the Trans-Pennine route between York and Manchester and the Midland main line from York to Sheffield. Both of those works will be ‘paused’, with only the electrification of the Great Western line between London and South Wales going ahead as planned.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said rising costs and missed targets made the plans untenable and blamed Network Rail, which controls 2,500 stations and many tracks, for having overambitious targets.
Shadow transport secretary, Michael Dugher, said: ‘We have been warning time and time again there needs to be fundamental changes in how our railways are run. You spent the election campaign repeating promises you knew you would break after the election. Ministers may try to shift all the blame to Network Rail, but this happened on the Government’s watch and the responsibility for this mess lies squarely with the Government.’
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: ‘This… follows years of above-inflation fares increases, crowded carriages and engineering works. Passengers have put up with much inconvenience in the expectation of a better, more reliable, and more comfortable rail service.
‘What passengers will want now is a clear plan of action, setting out exactly when Network Rail will start to deliver some of the promised improvements’.