Planning ahead to meet future demand
4 December 2013 • Author(s): Stephen Hammond MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, UK
It is 20 years since Britain’s railways were privatised. At the time it was seen as a risky move, even though the network had grown increasingly unreliable and inefficient under state operator British Rail. Responsibility for tracks and trains was split, and private companies were invited to bid for regional franchises. Two decades later, the benefits of privatisation are clear. Passenger journeys have doubled to a level not seen since the 1920s, rail freight has grown by half, and revenue is up by more than £3 billion. And on a network roughly the same size as then, our railway today is running 4,000 extra services a day. But how our railway will continue to succeed over the next 20 years is now the key question. Importantly, it will benefit from a step change in investment. Rising passenger and freight demand since privatisation had stretched the capacity of the railway to its limits. In response, the Government has embarked on the biggest rail modernisation programme in Britain for generations.
One of the tangible benefits will be an extra 140,000 seats at peak times by the end of the decade. Between 2014 and 2019, infrastructure operator Network Rail is planning to spend over £35 billion to run and expand the railway. Of that, the Government is investing over £9 billion to deliver major improvements across the country.
We are electrifying 850 miles of track, and spending £5.8 billion on new rolling stock for our main north-south lines. We are also building Crossrail – a new high capacity railway for London and the South East.