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Tuesday, 20 June, 2000, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
New-look rail network proposed
train coming in to station
Competition is fierce to run the rail network
Plans have been unveiled for a major re-shaping of the rail network in England and Wales.

They include proposals for two new high-speed operators, and new regional firms.

The Shadow Strategic Rail Authority (SSRA) wants to encourage more investment in new trains and provide a better service for passengers.


Our guiding principle is to improve service

Shadow Strategic Rail Authority
A high-speed Trans Pennine Express service will link Liverpool and Manchester with Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle, and a new Anglia and Humber operator will run fast trains between London, Norwich and Hull.

The new regional franchises will include Northern, covering the whole of the north of England for the first time.

There will be a single company for Wales and the Borders, replacing four existing ones which "have no clear focus".

A Wessex franchise is likely to cover an area between Worcestershire, Bristol and the south coast.

A London-based Thameslink 2000 will link services to the north and south.

The final detailed shape of the franchises created will only be revealed once the plans of those bidding to run them have been considered.

Service improvements

SSRA chairman Sir Alastair Morton said: "Our guiding principle is to improve service, not to introduce change for change's sake.

"What we are proposing is a map that will revitalise the network, with franchise areas designed to relate better to each other and to provide improved accessibility for passengers."

The changes were announced as the SSRA copes with the replacement of the 18 short-term franchises existing under the current rail map.

SSRA chief executive Mike Grant said that if franchise replacement agreements were not reached, the existing franchises would run to their expiry date.

Passenger needs

He went on: "We don't want to make services fit the new franchises but to make the franchises fit the needs of passengers."

Minister for Transport Lord Macdonald said the new franchise map represented "the first fruits of the new strategic approach to the development of the national rail network".

Stewart Francis, chairman of the Rail Passengers Council, said the changes "could mean big improvements for passengers".

But the council said the changes would only bring benefits to passengers if they were underpinned by significantly increased levels of private and public investment in the railways.

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