Despite the deepening European Union currency crisis and the challenges of the recession railway growth is receiving top level backing.
As Prime Minster David Cameron met Northern Rail apprentices at Newton Heath the Chancellor of the Exchequer unveiled a series of measures designed to back Britain’s wealth creating railway. In a more cheerful part of his autumn statement George Osborne announced £1.4 billion of investment in railways. This includes £290 million to electrify the North Transpennine route from Manchester to Leeds; £270 million to develop a link between Oxford and Bedford and £390 million for enhancement and renewal works to improve stations. Happily a further £290 million will be used to limit fare raises in January 2012.
This is good news for front line staff in ticket office. Fares will rise by RPI+1% rather than RPI+3%. In addition £45 million will be spent extending smart ticketing across London and the South East. In the fight against crime £5 million will be spent setting up a nationwide taskforce to target metal thieves and scrap metal dealers who il- legally trade in stolen metal.
Rail freight receives government backing too, see the print issue of RailStaff. In a statement Network Rail paid tribute to the hard work and reliability of railway staff, essential in winning the confidence of ministers. ‘This is a serious vote of confidence in the railway, and in Network Rail. It shows the value the Government attaches to our industry, and the trust it has in us to deliver this investment. Wherever in the country this investment is going to be delivered is, in a sense, immaterial. It is a vote of confidence in us all, and our ability to plan, build, maintain, renew and operate a railway that already does and can continue to make a substantial contribution to Britain’s economy as a whole. Thank you for the parts you all play in enabling us to do that.’
A decision on High Speed Two is expected in the new year. The scheme should be given the go ahead once new funding for tunnels in Buckinghamshire can be agreed.
The Christmas message for railways is one of cash, congratulations and confidence.