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West of England to get £9.45bn economic boost from new rail partnership plan

Rail companies across the west of England have set out a long-term plan for the region’s railway, which will boost the economy by £9.45bn.

The plan, called ‘In partnership for Britain’s prosperity - the west of England,’ sets out how a £2.4bn investment in operating, maintaining and renewing the Great Western main line between 2019-24 will enable new and improved services.

This is in addition to the existing upgrades to electrify the route, and around £500m of private investment in a brand new fleet of intercity trains which will increase the frequency, quality and speed of journeys.

People and businesses will be better connected to key economic hubs in the region and beyond to London, Wales, the Midlands, and the north.

The plan sees the partnership of public and private sector companies outline their commitments to improving services for customers, better connecting communities and providing employees with rewarding careers, as well as benefiting the region’s economy.

In order to deliver the plan’s commitment to boost communities through localised decision making and investment, the partnership railway will deliver an investment of £50m in stations and car parks to improve and enhance the gateways to towns.

Customer and Communities Funds from Great Western Railway and CrossCountry will invest £4.5m in projects to meet social needs and educate or engage local people, such as regenerating disused buildings.

More than 250 apprenticeships will be created by 2024, in addition to the apprenticeships created by rail businesses based across the west.

Russell Mears, chair of the freight group at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “By coming together with a plan to improve further, the west’s rail companies are committing to do even more for the economy, businesses and communities in the region, now and for the generations ahead.”

Mark Hopwood, managing director of Great Western Railway, explained: “The west’s railway, a partnership of the public and private sectors, is fundamental to the region’s prosperity, connecting workers to jobs, businesses to markets, and people to their families and friends.

“Working in partnership, the railway’s plan will spread growth to communities across the region and drive unprecedented improvements for our customers.

“All this adds up to a more secure and brighter future for people who work in rail.”

Managing director of CrossCountry, Andy Cooper, added: “The commitments in our plan - to the region’s economy, rail customers, communities and our people – set us on course to build on previous improvements and move forward together.

“Customers will benefit from simpler ticketing, more services and better value for money. We will transform our communities’ social and economic futures by enabling more people to benefit from the opportunities provided by rail.”

Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail’s western route, said: “The railway is a crucial piece of the region's infrastructure, moving the people and goods that power our economy faster and more efficiently, connecting businesses in the west of England to markets all over the world.

“By supporting our existing talent, moving forward as one team and encouraging new recruits with workforce training, we are securing a bright future for our employees and the communities in which they live and work.”

Top image: Joe Dunckley

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