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£8bn rail transport scheme unveiled

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Passengers facing huge hikes in train fares have been promised hundreds of new carriages

Passengers facing huge hikes in train fares have been promised hundreds of new carriages after the Government committed itself to an £8 billion package of new rail schemes.

But there were warnings that overcrowding on trains is still likely to continue because customers will have to wait until 2019 to get all the 2,100 carriages promised.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the Government had to “invest in Britain’s future” and the new carriages would “help make our railways fit for the 21st century”.

But shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said passengers facing “massive increases in fares” would be disappointed the Government was “delaying new trains”.

There were concerns among Welsh politicians that Mr Hammond had deferred a decision on whether electrification of the Great Western line would be extended to Wales.

But in London there was a welcome for Mr Hammond’s commitment to funding the £6 billion Bedford-Brighton north-south Thameslink project in its entirety but dismay that the scheme was going to finish two years’ late – in 2018.

And there was also concern that Mr Hammond had also deferred a decision on the replacement of ageing Intercity high-speed trains.

Among projects announced were: 2,100 new carriages by May 2019 but only 650 of them by 2014 – far fewer than the 1,300 originally promised by 2014 by Labour, a pledge Mr Hammond said was “never deliverable”.

Funding for the Thameslink project in its entirety but the completion put back two years due to reprogramming of work at London Bridge. A £600 million electrification, to be completed by 2016, of the Great Western line from London to Didcot, Oxford and Newbury but a decision on electrification of the rest of the line to Wales deferred until the new year;

A £300 million electrification of lines between Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Blackpool with work due to be completed by 2016. A deferring until the new year of a decision on the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) – the project to replace the Intercity 225 trains, some of which date back to the 1970s.

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