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EDITIONS
Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 16:36 GMT
Rail masterplan unveiled
10 year plan for railways unveiled
The 10-year plan promises to ease commuter misery
The long-delayed 10-year strategy for the UK's ailing railways has been unveiled by the Strategic Rail Authority.

The 67.5bn package includes plans for a national rail academy to train staff, sweeping improvements to services in London and the South East and improvements to 1,000 stations.

Our view is that over a 10 year time frame we will have got a railway that Britain is proud of

SRA chairman Richard Bowker
SRA chairman Richard Bowker told the BBC the plan aimed to reverse declining standards and the "deteriorating quality of management" by 2010.

Its publication comes as a BBC investigation reveals that many of the train operating companies are facing massive losses, totalling 120m.

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers said there would be no more excuses for the railways.

It comes after a week in which train disruption topped the political agenda, amid concerns over further strike action.

Private investment

The government aims to have 50% more passengers and 80% more freight on the railways, with less overcrowding, by the end of the plan.

But the improvements rely not only on 33.5bn public investment but another 34bn from private investors.

The SRA said the plan also depended on an end to the Railtrack crisis, restoring confidence and stability in the rail industry and tackling skill shortages.

Line upgrades by 2010
West Coast by 2005
Connex South Eastern by 2005
Channel Tunnel rail link by 2006
Thameslink 2000 by 2008
East Coast by 2010
South West Trains by 2010
Mr Bowker told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have 20% more trains since privatisation and a third more passengers.

"This has been against a backdrop of deteriorating assets and deteriorating quality of management."

He said this plan was the first time the government had committed itself to improving the railways.

Earlier he told the BBC: "Our view is that over a 10-year time frame we will have got a railway that Britain is proud of."

Ahead of a meeting at Downing Street, he said investment was already under way.

Time for change

After the meeting Mr Byers said: "We have the money and now we have a detailed industry plan so there can be no more excuses".

Key plans
1,700 new coaches in the South East by 2004
370m of improvements at 1,000 stations by 2004
Another 330m for track and signalling by 2007
430m for local rail schemes
Possible combining of existing franchises
Improved staff training
Train warning system by 2003

However Railtrack Group chief executive Steve Marshall said private investors needed to get fair value for their shares and Railtrack needed to be taken out of administration before further private investment would be forthcoming.

"Currently, the spectre of the treatment of Railtrack - as it languishes in administration - and its investors who are being invited to underpin the massive new investment, casts a shadow over the delivery of the plan," he said.

The SRA plans include a train protection warning system on all lines by next year, the replacement of all "slamming door" trains, and the completion of the Channel Tunnel rail link's first phase.

London and the South East is focused on because 70% of train journeys start or end in the capital.

Commuter lines, including the West Coast and East Coast mainlines, will be upgraded.

Plans for a new "national rail academy" will address skills shortages.

Some projects are unlikely to happen before 2010 including the London Crossrail scheme; a north-south high-speed line and new rail links to Heathrow, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports.

The report comes as a BBC investigation into 18 of the 25 train operators for File on 4 revealed only eight are making a profit, with 10 facing losses totalling 120m.

Conservative transport spokesman Theresa May suggested the private sector would be unwilling to invest in the rail network.

And Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, Don Foster, said the plan was "long overdue".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Pienaar
"Meeting these targets is harder than setting them"
Strategic Rail Authority chairman Richard Bowker
"Over 10 years we can get a railway that Britain will be proud of"
BBC News Online's in-depth coverage on the state of the UK's railways


10 year rail plan

1,000 MILE RAIL TRIP
See also:

24 Oct 01 | Business
14 Jan 02 | Scotland
14 Jan 02 | Politics
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