Railtrack's pounds 27bn plan is branded a mirage

TRAIN JOURNEY times to cities across Britain will be sharply reduced by a pounds 27bn, 10-year investment programme unveiled yesterday.

Railtrack, the monopoly track and signalling company, said that it had embarked on the "biggest investment since the days of Brunel".

It said that the money would also be used to tackle bottle-necks on the network to cope with a predicted 30 per cent surge in passenger numbers over the next decade - twice the level it had forecast a year ago.

But critics said that the scheme was a "mirage" that contained only pounds 1.4bn of firm investment commitments.

Plans include the pounds 1bn upgrade of the East Coast main line from London to Edinburgh, which will cut journey times by 28 minutes to three hours and 30 minutes, and provide capacity for twice as many trains.

Railtrack wants to upgrade Great Western lines and cut 37 minutes off the journey to Penzance and 10 minutes off the journey to Swansea. But this scheme needs outside funding.

The company has committed itself to a new pounds 100m scheme to link Heathrow airport with southern England, and a pounds 130m modernisation of the line from London Liverpool Street to Stansted airport. Railtrack is already committed to the pounds 3bn upgrade of the West Coast main line to Scotland, cutting journey times to Glasgow by one hour 17 minutes to four hours.

Gerald Corbett, the Railtrack chief executive, said: "This pounds 27bn programme is the largest upgrade of the infrastructure since the railways were built. Delivering it is a massive challenge, which can only be met through an effective partnership between the public and the private sector."

Railtrack also pledged to improve passenger train punctuality by 7.5 per cent in 1999-2000, by 5 per cent in 2000-2001, and by 2.5 per cent each year after that. But Mr Corbett admitted that Railtrack would miss this year's 7.5 per cent target by up to 4 percentage points, laying the company open to fines from the Rail Regulator.

"We recognise that there is still a great deal to be done. While we have made considerable progress in many areas, we know that too frequently the experience of passengers falls short of what they have a right to expect," he said.

The pressure group Save Our Railways described the document as "a mirage". It said that Railtrack had only committed to pounds 1.4bn over 10 years, compared with itspounds 350m-a-year profits.

It said that pounds 16bn was being spent to maintain the network: pounds 1.8bn on plans set out a year ago, and pounds 6.3bn on schemes requiring outside partners.

"We welcome the commitment to new rail schemes, but we are deeply frustrated and disappointed that, overall, the much-trumpeted pounds 27bn investment programme turns out to be a mirage," said Jonathan Bray, a spokesman.

James Gordon, director general of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "We very much hope that Railtrack's spending produces some immediate benefits as well as long-term improvements to the network."

Railtrack also unveiled a pounds 350m investment plan for freight, based on an annual growth forecast of 15 per cent over 10 years.

The centrepiece would be the creation of a third route to Scotland by the revival of the pre-war Midland Railway from Glasgow to London via Settle, Carlisle and Leeds.

Railtrack also wants to open four lines axed by Dr Beeching in the 1960s, although it said there were not firm plans. This include Wednesbury to Stourbridge for passengers and Stirling to Kincardine, Lichfield to Walsall, and Stratford to Cheltenham for freight.

Chris Bolt, the Rail Regulator, who oversees Railtrack's investment, said that consultants would review the company's costings. But sources said that Tom Winsor, the new regulator who starts in July, would take a more hard-line approach.

Outlook, Business page 17 Leading article, Review page 3

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment