Electric rail plans `shelved'

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The Independent Online
CHRISTIAN WOLMAR

Transport Correspondent

Nearly all rail electrification schemes have been shelved for the next 10 years and rail replacement programmes have been cut back drastically under investment plans for the privatised railway, Labour claimed today.

An analysis of Railtrack's 10-year investment plan published earlier this week makes no mention of most important electrification schemes.

The only new electrification which Railtrack is planning is the Heathrow Express London Paddington to Heathrow scheme and part of the cross-London Crossrail which has been delayed by parliamentary opposition.

Railtrack's 10-year programme of investing at least pounds 1bn a year was criticised by opposition politicians for being the minimum necessary to keep the railway going at the same standard.

In particular, Railtrack forecasts that rail replacement rates decline from the average rate of 2.1 per cent annually in the 1980s to 0.8 per cent for the next 10 years. This implies an average rail life of 125 years, which compares with a European average of 2.7 per cent (an average of 37 years). According to evidence submitted to the Commons Transport Committee for its recent report on rail finances, such a low level of replacement is not feasible and will lead to deteriorating conditions for rail passengers.

The electrification schemes shelved include Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen St, Scotland's busiest commuter route, the Midland Main Line St Pancras to Sheffield, the Great Western Reading to Bristol, the west of the England and South Wales and Trans-Pennine service from York and Hull to Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool.

Brian Wilson, Labour's transport spokesman, said: "Some of these schemes are crucial to the local and regional economies."

Railtrack said last night: "We have identified certain schemes which are going ahead. But it is not an exclusive list and other schemes may go ahead provided there is a viable commercial case for them."

n The Dover-Dunkirk train ferry service, which has been operating for more than 60 years, will end today.

freight wagons and passengers in carriages, but in recent years the passenger service was cut out as motoring holidays became more popular.

The freight service was carried on until today by the French-crewed Nord Pas de Calais.

The ship is being taken over by the new operator SeaFrance, but not as a train ferry. It will operate between Dover and Calais.

When the link began in the 1930s the Dover terminal was served by a train ferry dock, later superseded by a ramp at the Admiralty Pier which also carried lorries.

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