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Network Rail reveals capacity improvement plans for London and the South East

Network Rail yesterday unveiled its long-term strategy for London and the South East which includes new interventions that aim to avoid major capital expenditure by increasing capacity within the existing network.

The number of passengers travelling into London, especially at peak times, is set to grow significantly by 2031 according to Network Rail’s London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS).

New proposals include introducing extra commuter services between the Thames Valley and Paddington, extra services on the Great Eastern Main Line into Liverpool Street, additional trains on the Lea Valley line into Stratford, more trains on the Windsor lines into Waterloo and longer trains on orbital routes.

The RUS also recommends further planning for new routes in the London area – for example improving services to Heathrow with a new western rail access, potential future extension of Crossrail services onto the West Coast Main Line and to Reading and, in the longer term, a Crossrail 2 line under the capital.

Network Rail said these last two are indicative of a new approach which aims to increase connectivity across London, rather than see most rail journeys end, as they traditionally have, at terminus stations on the fringes of central London.

“London relies on rail to get more than 2M people to and from work each day,” said Network Rail group strategy director Paul Plummer. ” It’s clear that further investment is essential if rail is to continue to play its part in supporting the economy and this strategy provides a clear vision of how rail can continue to cater for the passengers and businesses of tomorrow.

“To make this happen, Network Rail and the rest of the industry need to focus on ways of improving efficiency and value for money.”

On a small number of routes into London it is clear that a more radical approach will be needed to meet forecast future demand, Network Rail said. This particularly applies to the South West Main Line, which will be close to capacity even once the currently disused platforms at Waterloo are reopened. The RUS sets out a possible long term option for an additional track on the London approaches but further development will be required.

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