Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Lib Dems pledge £3bn rail reopening expansion

The Liberal Democrats have promised to reopen thousands of miles of railway track and stations across the country in what they said would be the biggest rail expansion since the Victorian era.

The work would be paid for with nearly £3bn from a new Rail Expansion Fund which would in turn be funded by cuts to the major roads budget. Councils and transport authorities would bid for money from the fund.

The Liberal Democrats would cut the Government’s major roads project for the years up to 2013/14 by 90% and divert almost £3.5bn to rail, said Liberal Democrat shadow transport secretary Norman Baker.

£480M currently earmarked for projects like motorway widening and hard shoulders would go towards the Lib Dems’ existing policy of cutting rail fares, and the remaining £2.95bn would go into the Rail Expansion Fund.

Suitable schemes

Precise decisions on which services could be expanded would not be made until bids were received, but the party has drawn up a list of schemes which could be suitable for early delivery.

These include the electrification of lines from Manchester to Liverpool, Leeds and Preston; from Birmingham to Bristol and Basingstoke; and between Leeds and York.

New or reopened stations could be funded in Ilkeston, Kidlington, Wantage, Corsham, Tavistock, Middlewich, Ashington, Blyth, Washington and Skelmersdale.

“High speed rail is hugely important, but it is only part of the 21st century rail network Britain needs.”

Norman Baker, Liberal Democrats

New lines could link Southport with Preston, Bournemouth with Ringwood and the Midlands main line with the Birmingham-Derby route. Track could be reopened between Exeter and Okehampton; Tavistock and Plymouth; Penrith and Keswick; and Galashiels and Carlisle.

In some areas, such as the line linking Heywood and Bury with Rawtenstall, heritage lines could be returned to passenger use.

Unveiling the policy, Baker said the railway network would be transformed.

“Labour has allowed the railways to wither on the vine and punished passengers with huge fare hikes while more polluting forms of transport have got cheaper,” he said. “All the while, the Tories have been sharpening the axe they will take to the transport budget.

“High speed rail is hugely important, but it is only part of the 21st century rail network Britain needs. Our plans will reopen thousands of miles of track across the country and make our railway great again.”

Readers' comments (5)

  • The silly season is with us again. Hornby will make a fortune.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The plan is pie in the sky. The rail industry is struggling to meet the current rail plans for CP4 up to 2014. Non of these projects are off the shelf designs and it is too easy to say we just reopen old lines without taking account of trackbed condition, old level crossings that need to be restablished or bridged.A typical Lib Dem promise of no substance.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The fact that increased capacity on major roads produces additional traffic is proof that there is an increasing demand for the freedom of improved choice in mobility. This additional capacity can never be provided by a small expansion in a few selected rail lines. It is odd that liberals see the freedom offered by improved mobility is something to be denied.

    Brian Barton

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Although designed to win the hearts of the train romantics, this policy is unrealistic. The recent upgrade of the West Coast main line cost millions and whilst this has improved journey times and increased timetabled trains its impact on car and lorry journeys has been barely noticed, if indeed it had any. People want to travel by car and, even with record petrol prices, are unlikely to vote for a party which promises to let the existing road network stagnate at the expense of reconstituted rail lines. Populations in rural areas may have increased but uptake on long dead lines such as the Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton line are unlikely to ever be profitable when Plymouth to Exeter can be accomplished by car in 40 minutes opposed to 1 hour on the current rail link via Newton Abbot.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Whilst I am in favour of the proposal to make rail transport more widely available I'm not sure widening the passenger network is the major priority.
    The biggest difference rail could make to congestion and pollution would be to provide a viable alternative to national and european railfreight transport. This could be acheived by reintroducing a wider range of freight facility grants and incentives to business.
    On the passenger side improving the fare structure - and stabilising or reducing fares - would be a big step forward, as would freeing up existing infrastructure bottlenecks to improve service reliability.
    Whilst these measures would cost less money, no doubt they are not quite as sexy an election promise as openning new railway stations in a multitude of locations....

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.