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Cash-hit SRA to cut major rail projects

RAILWAY ENGINEERS were expecting the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) to mothball a tranche of projects today as it publishes its Strategic Plan for 2003.

Industry sources said they were expecting the East Coast Main Line upgrade, Thameslink 2000 project and planned new freight routes such as the direct Felixstowe-Nuneaton line to all be put on hold.

Other smaller upgrades were also expected to be held back.

The West Coast Main Line upgrade and electrification of the South East region railway network will be the only two large scale projects to continue, with some scaled down smaller schemes. The planned Crossrail project is also not expected to feature largely in the plan as the government is to make a final decision on its future next month.

Engineers said capital expenditure was hit partly because the Department for Transport recently announced a £312M cut in SRA funding to £13.8bn in its 10 year Transport Plan progress report (NCE news 2 Jan).

Spending has also been hit by higher than expected outlays by Network Rail on maintenance and renewals. Network Rail chief executive John Armitt said last week that it was expecting to have overspent by £1.8bn this year.

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