A £1.1bn project to electrify two major rail lines in a bid to cut journey times, reduce pollution and boost the economy has been unveiled by the government today.
Phased work will begin immediately on the Great Western Main Line between London and Swansea and the route between Manchester and Liverpool. The scheme will create the first electric main line trains in Wales.
The project is due to take eight years to complete on the Great Western line and half that time for the north west section, with the new trains emitting up to 35% less carbon per passenger mile than diesel locomotives and being less likely to break down.
Officials say the scheme could cut 19 minutes from the journey between London and Swansea as well as increasing rush hour capacity by 15%. It will be 14 minutes quicker to travel between Manchester and Liverpool.
Upgrades for other lines, including the Midland Mainline between London and Sheffield and the route between Preston, Manchester and Liverpool, are also being considered. Network Rail wants to electrify the busiest 4,827km of the 60% of the network not ready to support the new trains.
Prime minister Gordon Brown said the electrification programme is “vital to building a 21st century transport system”.
Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis said it would provide a “huge benefit to passengers who will gain from faster, cleaner and more reliable trains”.
The Campaign for Better Transport said it “warmly welcomed” the announcement but warned that passengers must not face higher fares as a result.
Executive director Stephen Joseph said: “This must not be used as an excuse to increase fares that already the highest in Europe, as is happening with the new Kent high-speed services. Electrification brings wider benefits in cutting pollution and attracting people out of cars – these need to be paid for by the government rather than by rail passengers.”