Rail companies unveil plans to spend billions on better services

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Britain's rail industry will make a series of commitments today to improve services and provide billions of additional pounds to the economy.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing train companies and Network Rail, claimed passengers would see a “transformation” over the next 18 months with new trains, better services and revamped stations.

Commitments made by the industry as part of the “public and private partnership railway” include keeping running costs “in the black” to free up taxpayers’ money, raising customer satisfaction by running better services and boosting communities through localised decision making and investment.

Also promised is the creation of more jobs and increased diversity in the industry.

The RDG said 5,700 new train carriages would be in use by 2021 as part of a £50bn investment.

It claimed staff would benefit from 100,000 job opportunities and the creation of 20,000 new apprenticeships by 2020.

RDG chief executive Paul Plummer will describe the launch of the In Partnership for Britain’s Prosperity plan as a “landmark coming together”.

He will tell an event at St Pancras station today: “This plan will deliver the railway that the economy, customers and communities need as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.”

The RDG commissioned research which predicted that Britain’s railway would secure almost £85bn of extra economic benefits for the country by connecting people to jobs, housing and new business opportunities.

This is in addition to the existing £31bn the industry currently delivers each year, according to the study.

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said: “This plan will accelerate change and deliver further investment, bringing more improvements for passengers, communities and businesses across Britain now and in the long term.”

Network Rail, which manages Britain’s railway infrastructure, has been criticised in recent years after several major projects were delayed and over budget, particularly electrification of the Great Western main line between London and South Wales.

Electrification of routes across the North was also put in doubt recently by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who claimed new diesel technology made the upgrades unnecessary.

Further doubt will be cast on the Government’s commitment to transport in the region when Channel 4 current affairs programme Dispatches airs tonight.

It includes interviews with several senior members of Transport for the North, an organisation set up by Government to lead on the region’s transport needs.

They admit they will be asking the Government for an enormous sum spread over the next 30 years, with one senior source saying £20bn alone will be needed for a Liverpool to Hull railway line dubbed “Crossrail for the North”.

But even as that bid is prepared, a Government meeting agenda released to Dispatches reveals that Mr Grayling and rail bosses met earlier this year to discuss the topic: “The cost of railways is becoming unsustainable”.

The programme’s investigation also casts doubt on the role the North will be allowed to play in implementing and overseeing any new transport upgrades.

Leaked government documents obtained by Dispatches will show that when Transport for the North becomes a statutory body – revealed to be in April next year – its functions will be almost exclusively to advise government.

Dispatches: Is Britain Full? airs on Channel 4 at 8pm tonight.