UK Budget 2015 – Rail Highlights
The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the 2015 budget on 18th March detailing spending announcements and financial priorities. Within the main Budget Report, there are a number of rail and passenger transport commitments which are worth highlighting:
Electrification of the Hull to Selby line is to proceed in CP6 (by 2024) – subject to an acceptable contribution from Hull Trains. Electrifying the line will allow for electric stock to run from Hull, through Leeds and Manchester to Liverpool, the not so High Speed 3 connecting with HS2. It will also speed up services to London, reducing journey times by up to 30 minutes.
High Speed 3 Rail Option – Source: BBC
Croxley Rail Link – following approval of the TWAO 2013, £34 million of further funding has been granted, along with an additional £16 from TfL who will now take over management of of the project, expected to open in 2018. Click here for map of Croxley Rail Link.
Great Western Route – Subject to negotiations, a Direct Grant will be agreed with First Great Western until 2019 for the introduction of Intercity Express trains. These will take advantage of the electrification project underway, though we will still see diesel services in Devon and Cornwall for the foreseeable future.
The remit of the South West Peninsula Taskforce, set up in January 2015, is to be expanded to include development improvements to the Exeter and Salisbury rail line. Currently a single track section of the West of England Mainline, this could see the route doubled to increase frequencies.
£100,000 is to be provided for a further study into reopening the Uckfield to Lewes line. This has been the subject of much discussion and will hopefully lead to a secondary route from London to Brighton.
Wanting more organisations to contribute towards the future legacy of the HS2 network, the Government is to fund a High Speed Rail Investment Summit to be held in Birmingham, with the objective of attracting foreign investment for regenerations projects linked to the railway.
Whilst not contributing funds to its potential operation, the Government is hinting at its support for reinstating the ferry link between Newcastle and Norway; however, it will only provide funding to promote the North East to Scandinavian tourists, not to the ferry service itself.
The Government is to commission a new study into whether there are ‘viable options’ for the reopening of Plymouth Airport, presumably to support the aims of enhancing access to the far South West, alongside the work being done by the South West Peninsula Tastforce.
Full approval has been granted for Bristol’s North Fringe to Hengrove MetroBus BRT scheme.
The Government has also reaffirmed a commitment to the new A303 tunnel under Stonehenge.
There were no major announcements for the North of England: these were packaged into the Northern Transport Strategy, announced today by Transport for the North. As this Budget occurred less than 2 months before the General Election, it remains to be seen how the next Government will prioritise future transport investment.
Author: Liam Henderson