Transport secretary Philip Hammond has announced an £8bn investment package in rail projects that will reduce overcrowding, speed up journeys and modernise the network.
As part of the scheme, the Government plans to buy 2,100 carriages by 2019 as well as funding the Bedford to Brighton Thameslink project and the £600m electrification of the Great Western line connecting London with Oxford.
Hammond said: “At a time of severe pressure on public spending, it would be tempting to cut back on investment in our railways. But we cannot afford not to invest in Britain’s future. We have already committed to the Crossrail project and to £14bn to support capital maintenance and investment in our railways over the next four years. Today I can confirm that the Thameslink project will go ahead in its entirety and I can announce 650 further carriages to reduce overcrowding. In total this amounts to 2,100 new carriages which will help make our railways fit for the 21st century.”
Bombardier and Siemens are competing to win a contract for the supply of 1,000 trains for Thameslink. Securing it would represent good news for Bombardier, which employs about 3,000 people in the last train manufacturing facility in the UK, and is reported as having a gap in its order book for 2011.
The Thameslink project will double the number of trains travelling through London at the busiest times of the day, improving the connection between towns and cities north and south of the capital.
By May 2019, the Government will deliver more than 2,100 new rail carriages onto the network, 1,800 of which will be for new Crossrail and Thameslink services. Hundreds of existing electric carriages will be freed up and deployed onto the newly electrified lines by franchised train operators. In total, there will be at least 1,850 additional carriages on the network by 2019.
The decision about the £7.5bn Intercity Express Programme, the project to replace the old Intercity 125 fleet, was deferred, as the Government works to try and make the scheme less costly.
After Hitachi-led Agility Trains was announced as preferred bidder last February by then transport secretary Geoff Hoon, Bombardier thought it had missed out on the chance to win the contract. But the coalition Government decided to reconsider the bid, which will lead either to revisiting the contract with Hitachi or to reopening the tender.
A spokesperson for Hitachi said: “We welcome the British Government’s announcement of new investment in the UK Rail Infrastructure and replacement of the HS 125 trains. Hitachi continues to see the UK as one of our important European markets.
“However we are disappointed that there is yet no decision on our bid for the IEP, and therefore on our plans to bring jobs to the UK. We will be continuing our talks with the Department for Transport and will consider our position in the light of these.”