14:54 16 July 2012
The government has released plans for a massive £9.4 billion railway improvement scheme across the UK which will mark the biggest investment in rail travel infrastructure in the last 150 years.
The move, while economical in the long run, will result in significant price increases in the short term to cover the costs. The hoped result will be what Prime Minister David Cameron calls "a truly world class rail network".
£5.2 billion worth of the investments were previously revealed but new schemes to a total of £4.2 billion were launched this week in an effort to truly bridge the north/south divide and electrify the network.
A large chunk of the package will be the electrification of the Midland Mainline from London to Sheffield while the Department for Transport (DfT) investment has predicted to deliver capacity for 140,000 extra daily commutes across the nation.
The transport secretary, Justine Greening, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the projects were "absolutely key to securing our country's prosperity in the decades ahead".
She did acknowledge that rail customers would feel the move reflected in their ticket prices but these costs would eventually level out.
The minister said: "Affordability is absolutely key because, of course, if people can't afford to go on the train then that is the last thing we want for an affordable train system.
"There is obviously no money tree, so we have to get the money from somewhere. For the time being, passengers will pay. Over time we will tackle that inefficiency."
It is expected that as a result of the latest plans 58% of passengers will travel on electric trains.
Electric trains are better for the environment, cheaper to run and faster. After citing that she hoped more freight would travel by rail instead of road, Greening continued: "We all know that diesel is massively expensive so if we can move over to electric trains, not only are they greener, they're also cheaper and also they are lighter too, so what that means is that when they are on the track they don't damage it so much, so maintenance costs go down too."
A formal statement summed up the plan as "another historic landmark in the regeneration and modernisation of Britain's railway. This government's vision for the railways is clear – a railway system that is faster, more reliable, less crowded, and more green."
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