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£9bn secured for rail investment in HLOS

The Government has published its High Level Output Specification (HLOS) for the next spending control period, including £9bn in rail investment and giving projects across the country the green-light.

A vast array of projects have been approved, including the extension of GWML electrification to Swansea, the whole of the Northern Hub and the re-opening of the East-West rail link from Oxford to Milton Keynes.

£5bn will be invested to complete current schemes, including Crossrail and Thameslink, with £4.2bn to be spent on new projects. 

The HLOS has four key priorities, the DfT said: creating an electrified high-capacity freight and passenger corridor; providing more capacity and faster journeys between key cities; supporting commuter travel into major urban area; and improved rail links to major ports and airports.

Funding for the whole of the Northern Hub has been confirmed, including more track capacity between Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations, two new platforms at Piccadilly, an extra platform at Manchester Airport and extra capacity to allow more longer-distance and commuter trains to run betweenVictoriastation andLiverpool.

The works will create up to 30,000 new jobs and deliver more than £4bn to the Northern economy, according to Transport for Greater Manchester, which is ecstatic at the news. Up to 700 more trains per day to be provided.

An ‘Electric Spine’ is to be developed from Southampton toBirmingham, the East Midlands andSouth Yorkshireto improve capacity and increase national and regional connectivity.

The routes to be electrified as part of the Electric Spine are: Southampton Port – Basingstoke (conversion from 750 dc); Basingstoke – Reading; Oxford – Leamington – Coventry; Coventry – Nuneaton; Oxford – Bletchley – Bedford; Bedford – Nottingham and Derby, and Derby – Sheffield and Kettering – Corby.

Work on the Spine includes gauge clearance and links to depots to improve freight. Specific freight projects have also been confirmed at Ely, Peterborough and Leicester.

The East-West Rail link fromOxfordand Aylesbury to Milton Keynes will also be reopened and rail links with airports will be improved, including a new rail link to Heathrow airport.

Upgrades to the ECML fromLondonto Leeds and Newcastle have been announced with electrification of the route between Micklefield and Selby, and capacity enhancement at Huddersfield station. 

Electrification of the GWML will now be re-extended toSwansea, rather than just Cardiff. The project was cut back fromLondontoCardiffby the Coalition last March and is due to be completed in 2017. The decision to re-extend electrification out to Swansea follows intense campaigning bySouth Wales businesses and will cut 20 minutes from journey time as well as allowing longer 9-carriage trains to run. 

The HLOS also stated funding is to be ring-fenced to reduce the risk of accidents at level crossings, that train performance should be at least 92.5% MAA by the end of CP5, a reduction to no more than 2.2% of trains cancelled or arriving at their final destinations significantly late, improvements in passenger satisfaction and further implementation of ERTMS.

Transport secretary Justine Greening said: “Investment on this scale, in every region of the country, shows how this coalition government is focused on delivering an affordable, reliable and faster railway network that drives jobs and growth.”

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said: “We welcome this investment, it was actually first announced under the last Labour government...but this won’t help jobs and growth now, as there's not going to be a penny spent until after 2014.”

View the full document at:

A map of the plans can be viewed here: 

(Image copyright Alvey & Towers)

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at


John G   17/07/2012 at 21:23

Money is being found for all sorts of projects. Why has no one considered reopening the High Wycombe to Bourne End line, which Beeching axed. Would open up the proposed Heathrow link to many more people. Would take serious numbers off of the roads as well.

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