Fares, rail policy and DfT news

21.08.20

New Acceleration Unit launched by Transport Secretary

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has today (Aug 21) announced the launch of a new Acceleration Unit to help bring essential rail and road upgrades that will create jobs, rise connectivity, and boost the economy coming out of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The new team of specialists will join the Department for Transport (DfT) to help tackle delays in infrastructure projects and drive forward progress for passengers.

The team is set to be ready by next month and will answer directly to the Transport Secretary. Darren Shirley will lead the new team, who is currently Chief Executive of the Campaign for Better Transport and formerly of Which? Magazine.

Together with the Acceleration Unit, the Transport Secretary has also today declared his striving plans to upgrade Wales’ railways, with £343m of investment to deliver better, faster, more reliable journeys for passengers.

This includes starting design work on plans to upgrade Cardiff Central station, and funding to develop plans for upgraded cutting-edge digital signalling on the 241-kilometre Cambrian line from Shrewsbury Sutton Bridge Junction to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli, and proposals to speed up journeys between Cardiff and Swansea, Chester and Llandudno Junction, and the Severn Tunnel and Cardiff.

The unit follows the formation of a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council, devoted to levelling up infrastructure across the north’s towns and cities, establishing a direct link between Westminster and local leaders.

Grant Shapps has also today unveiled further rail investments, including:

  • £1.1 million investment for Network Rail to develop short-term plans to relieve overcrowding at London Liverpool Street station.
  • Funding to complete the £6.4 million scheme to build a new second footbridge serving all four platforms at St Albans City station, easing congestion and addressing safety issues at an increasingly busy station. Work’s due to start early 2021 and be complete by January 2022.
  • £4 million to develop the design phase for gauge enhancement and track improvements for freight trains on Great Western, Midland Main Lines and at Darlington to allow longer intermodal freight trains to operate from Teesport to Yorkshire. The Darlington scheme will be delivered by October 2020.
  • £9.74 million for signalling and infrastructure enhancements delivered on the Wessex route at Twickenham, Bracknell and Virginia Water as part of the Feltham and Wokingham Signalling Renewal Programme. This will help improve the reliability and flexibility of services starting from Easter 2021.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “As Britain begins to get moving once again after four months of lockdown, no-one should underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead.

“We want to accelerate Britain’s recovery by investing in vital infrastructure that will help get businesses back on their feet, create jobs to replace those that have been lost and level up our country.

“The creation of our new Acceleration Unit and investment in our roads and railways will ensure we build back better, greener and faster in the future.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said: “This £360 million investment in our roads and railways will help drive our economic recovery from coronavirus – creating jobs and levelling-up by ensuring businesses across all corners of the UK have the opportunities they need to grow.”

Darren Shirley, Head of the Acceleration Unit, said: “I am delighted to take on this important new role, bringing a fresh perspective and external advice to accelerate the delivery of key infrastructure projects and programmes.

“The breadth and depth of expertise in my new team will stand us in a good stead as we look to deliver the schemes that will help the country to rebuild faster through decarbonising the transport system and levelling up Britain as we emerge from the Coronavirus crisis.”

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