Headlines: February 15th, 2010

More electrification of the rail network and steps to increase capacity across the North of England should be the priorities for Government investment in the railways over the next ten years, according to a group of MPs. In a report today the Commons Transport Committee is also warning that investment in new infrastructure must not detract from necessary medium-term investments.

The MPs welcome the Government’s change of policy on high-speed rail and the scale of the current 35 billion pound investment programme much of which is to be spent on increasing capacity in London. The Committee calls, however, for a shift in the balance between investment in London and the South East and other parts of the country.

Today’s report says tough decisions will have to be made about priorities for the network but that after the current investment phase, which runs until 2014, a clear priority must be given to addressing the capacity constraints at the Manchester Hub, which is the main rail bottleneck in the North. The report says the problem affects the operation of both passenger and freight services across the whole of northern England, including the cities of Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle. The MPs also want to see more electrification of the network, particularly the Midland Main Line between London and Sheffield.

Today’s report has been welcomed by the Campaign for Better Transport, which called on the Government to heed its recommendations and come up with the upgrading needed to tackle overcrowding and to add new lines and stations to the network.