Government launches new vision for United Kingdom railways

  • Government launches new vision for United Kingdom railways

Government launches new vision for United Kingdom railways

Building on Network Rail's recent devolution of infrastructure management to route-based businesses, the plans include complementary changes to the franchising system to ensure that the railway is prepared to manage the challenges of the future, while maintaining the railway infrastructure in public ownership.

Passenger groups welcomed proposals to revive lines and stations closed about 50 years ago after Dr Richard Beeching's devastating reform of Britain's loss-making railway.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has pledged to "accelerate" the reopening of the railway between Oxford and Cambridge.

Mr Grayling said: "Many commuter services are full and getting busier and passengers know how much pressure the network is under".

Network Rail will also open lines from Bicester to Bedford and Milton Keynes to Princes Risborough, with services running by 2023.

As part of the plan, it is proposed to "explore opportunities to restore capacity lost under the Beeching and British Rail cuts" by identifying "new schemes that unlock new housing or economic growth and offer good value for money".

The Okehampton to Exeter rail link already has a strong backing locally, with the OkeRail Forum and local councillors having lobbied the Government for years about the need to reopen the line.

The plan forms part of a wider rail strategy under which the government will consider splitting up rail franchises, including Southern rail.

But Andy McDonald, the shadow Transport Secretary, described the proposals to reopen lines as "more jam tomorrow from a Government which has run out of ideas".

He said: "The Tories' record is of delayed, downgraded and cancelled investment, huge disparities in regional transport spending and soaring fares that are pricing passengers off the railway".

But Bruce Williamson, of campaign group Railfuture, said: "It seems the Government is finally recognising the need to invest in rail because so often when you hear about transport investment it nearly always means more road building".

But the agency suggested that if the lines are reopened, an option outlined by transport secretary Chris Grayling on Wednesday, the price of homes could soar.