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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Mixed news for rail passengers

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The Government has announced there will be 2,100 new rail carriages on the network by May 2019 to help overcrowding

Passengers facing huge hikes in train fares in the new year have received mixed news in a major rail announcement from the Government.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said there would be 2,100 new rail carriages on the network by May 2019.

But only 650 of them will be delivered by 2014 – far fewer than the 1,300 promised by the Labour government.

Mr Hammond also said that electrification of commuter services on the Great Western route between London and Didcot, Oxford and Newbury would go ahead.

But he put back until the new year a decision on whether the rest of the Great Western line to south west England and Wales would go ahead. And Mr Hammond also deferred a decision until the new year on the replacement of ageing Intercity 125 trains.

Mr Hammond did commit the Government to funding “in its entirety” the north-south cross-London Thameslink scheme. But he said it would finish in 2018 – two years later than planned – due to re-organisation of work at London Bridge station. He has been able to announce a figure of 2,100 new carriages by including not only the Thameslink trains but also those that will run on another cross-London scheme – Crossrail – that will also not be finished until 2018.

Commenting on the new carriages, Gerry Doherty, leader of the TSSA rail union, said: “Passengers will obviously be pleased that this will ease their cattle truck-style journeys but they still face a giant 30% jump in their fares over the next four years just to pay for the privilege of a seat.

“Why is it always the poor old passenger who has to foot the bill? Why don’t the private rail companies start putting something back into the industry instead of taking £800 million year in subsidies from the taxpayer?”

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, said: “(This) announcement is classic political smoke and mirrors. Key infrastructure developments like the intercity fleet have been kicked deep into the long grass and even the carriage procurement numbers have been dressed up to look better than they are with long-term projects mangled up with the urgent replacements required to keep pace with current demand.

“The reality is that the inflation-busting fare increases kick in within weeks while the infrastructure and upgrade works we need to drag the UK’s railways out of the slow lane are light years away. The profits of the train companies are ring-fenced while the services to passengers are left to rot.”

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