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Network Rail spends now to get Thameslink later


NETWORK RAIL has revealed plans for massive investment to extend platforms on Thameslink stations over the next two years in a move it hopes will increase pressure on the government to sanction a £3.5bn expansion to the service.

A decision to upgrade the north-south corridor through London Bridge, Blackfriars and Farringdon is expected in the High Level Output Statement (HLOS) in July.

Network Rail revealed the investment this week in its business plan to the end of March 2009. The programme will deliver £2.4bn of enhancements on top of ongoing maintenance and renewals programmes.

Work will focus on upgrading the existing Thameslink route by lengthening platforms to allow longer, more regular trains.

'Today we have eight-car trains running eight times per hour, ' said chief executive John Armitt. 'By 2015 we hope to have 12-car trains running 24 times per hour, quadrupling capacity.' Network Rail has identified the Thameslink upgrade as one of its top priorities. Armitt said he hoped the scheme will be included in HLOS.

The £2.4bn enhancements will put the organisation back on track to make up the £1.5bn underspend from the first part of this regulatory period, but will require an upping of resources to get it done.

'I do not deny for a minute that it will take a lot of effort on the ground - we can't do a lot of this work without possession and occupancy, ' Armitt said.

To meet the efficiency savings demanded by the Office of Rail Regulation, Network Rail has been looking overseas for example of how it can speed up its processes on track possessions. 'We have been examining what is done in Canada and France, and we have trials later this year and by the end of the year a roll-out, ' said Armit.

He said the new system will enable contractors to get a possession to just five minutes. It currently takes 40 hours.

Network Rail will also be utilitising faster construction techniques, such as prefabrication of track, to reduce occupancy times.

Plans include

New Airdrie-Bathgate line £214M to 2009, £300M overall.

New platforms at Bristol Parkway, King's Cross, Manchester airport, Newport and Wakefield Westgate £46.4M in total.

Thameslink station at St Pancras International £78M.

Olympic projects £109M now, £400M overall.

Trent Valley track doubling scheme £165M now, £300M overall.

42 South Wales platform extensions £13M now, £14M overall.

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