100,000 extra rail seats planned

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The Independent Online

Network Rail plans to provide more than 100,000 extra seats a day on trains as part of its spending proposals for the five years to 204, it said today.

They would be in around 1,700 extra carriages, the company said. Network Rail also plans to redevelop several major stations.

Proposals include:

:: More than doubling current spending levels on rail expansion schemes - £9.6bn ('09 to '14) compared to £4.3bn ('04 to '09)

:: £11.4bn investment over the period on renewing track, signals, structures and stations

:: £10.4bn spent on maintenance and day-to-day operating costs.

Iain Coucher, chief executive, said: "More and more people are using our railways. We, and the industry as a whole, recognise that this success brings new and exciting challenges.

"Growth and expansion is where we will focus our efforts in the years ahead and today's plan highlights a raft of small, medium and large expansion schemes that will provide passengers and freight users with a bigger, better railway that delivers more trains, more seats, more often."

George Muir, director general of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "A better railway, able to carry more people in comfort is urgently required. Passengers want it and if we can get people out of their cars it will be good for the environment. This plan shows how we will do it. It is a good plan and we will work together to develop it further before it is finalised next April."

Expansion schemes include all the key rail projects which have already been announced and attracted funding from the Department for Transport.

Key projects are: Modernisation of the cross-London Thameslink service - £2.6bn; Reading station area redevelopment £455m; remodelling of London's King's Cross station £153m and redevelopment of Birmingham New Street station £134m.

Working with and funded by Transport Scotland, Network Rail has also identified expansion schemes north of the border, including - Glasgow airport link £170m, and Airdrie to Bathgate - new railway project £145m.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly welcomed the business plan, saying: "I have set out in detail how we will invest in the rail network so that it carries 22% more passengers and is even safer and more reliable.

"The plan published today by Network Rail helps to show how this can be delivered and I thank them for their hard work.

"I am particularly pleased that the plan gives more details on lengthening platforms so that we can introduce longer trains on the network. This is vital to accommodate the 1,300 new carriages which the Government is delivering.

"I also welcome Network Rail's work to identify stations which could most benefit from upgrading. This is a priority, which is why I have earmarked £150 million to pay for it.

"I now expect the Office of Rail Regulation to produce a detailed response to the strategic business plan."