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Rail bodies pledge £85bn boost from improvement plan

West Coast Main Line upgrade work

Rail industry bodies including Network Rail have launched a plan to secure an £85bn boost for the economy by working together to improve services and investments.

Described as a “landmark coming together” by Rail Delivery Group (RDG) chief executive Paul Plummer, In Partnership for Britain’s Prosperity sets out how private franchises and Network Rail will work closer to deliver better value for money and more reliable services.

Firms such as Atkins and Amey contributed to the RDG’s plan, along with rail companies including Southern Rail and Virgin Trains. The plan consists of four major pledges: to keep rail running costs in the black, improve customer satisfaction by increasing punctuality of servies and simplifying the ticketing system, to make more decisions locally to benefit communities and to create 100,000 more jobs in rail by 2027. Much of the delivery of the plan will come via mechanisms already in place, such as Network Rail’s business plan.

It comes after transport secretary Chris Grayling urged the rail industry to fight harder against calls to re-nationalise the railways.

Over the next few years more than £50bn will have been invested in the railways, spent on local improvements as well as major projects. More than £11bn has come from the private sector, mainly in rolling stock.

The group estimates a return of almost £85bn for the economy over the life of those assets. It pledges to build on that figure by increasing competition for franchises and freight businesses, as well as keeping running costs in the black for rail so more money is available for long-term investment.

Many of the improvements will be delivered through existing structures. For example, around £12.7bn consists of renewals work delivered in network Rail’s control period 5 (CP5) and £7.7bn of spending on HS2 between 2015 and 2019.

Earlier this month Grayling set out Network Rail’s £48bn spending plans for control period 6 (CP6) spanning 2019 to 2024, of which £34.7bn will come from government grants.

“Network Rail’s transformation is bringing track and train more closely together for the benefit of passengers. This plan will accelerate change and deliver further investment and improvements bringing more improvements for passengers, communities and businesses across Britain now and in the long term,” said Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne.

A new independent body will be set up in 2018 to deal with complaints. The partnership will report on how successful it has been in carrying out its pledges each year.

Plummer added: “This plan will deliver the railway that the economy, customers and communities need as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.”

 

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