RAIL plans for Bristol announced
THE organisation which runs the rail network across the country has unveiled its blueprint for train services in the Bristol area.
Network Rail has committed to competing the electrification of the line between London and Bristol by 2017 - a year earlier than the date originally announced by the Government.
The £5 billion scheme will see the number of services to London doubled and train times doubled throughout the day.
And it has also drown up a wish list for the Bristol area which could be introduced by as early as 2017.
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The introduction of the long awaited Bristol Metro would see hourly services to Portishead and half hourly services to Severn Beach.
As reported in The Post a major refurbishment of Temple Meads is planned to coincide with the redevelopment of the area around the station.
The Bristol area has seen one of the biggest increases in passenger use across the country and demand is expecting to go up by more than a third over the next decade.
The business plan put together by Network Rail formally includes an hourly Portishead to Severn Beach service; an hourly Portishead to Bristol Temple Meads service and an hourly Bath Spa to Severn Beach service.
Network Rail has also called for an end to the delays in deciding which company will be awarded the Great Western Franchise.
The process has been put on hold following the serious problems surrounding the bidding process for the West coast Mainline.
Network Rail chief executive Sir David Higgins announced a national plan for the improvement of rail services which will see more than £37 billion invested across the UK.
He said: "Increasingly we have to balance the need to build more infrastructure, run trains on time and cut costs, and in many areas choices will need to be made."
The plan has been announced just weeks after passengers demonstrated at Temple Meads over the 4.2 per cent hike in season ticket prices.
Sir David said: "One million more trains run every year than 10 years ago, more passengers arrive on time than ever before, our safety record is one of the best in Europe and, despite the daily challenges we face, customer satisfaction is at record levels.
"Successive governments have made this possible by looking beyond the short term and recognising the critical importance of the railway to Britain's future."
Anthony Smith, chief executive of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Passengers will welcome the fact that Network Rail and train companies are working together on a plan to deliver passenger and Government priorities - more trains on time, and more seats.
"Our research shows that the three clear priorities for passengers are value for money, reliability and the ability to find a seat.
"This work must be passenger-focused in the planning and delivery. Improvements in satisfaction are welcome, but we would like to see an earlier date for setting a satisfaction target.
"We are interested to see how all this will be paid for. Passengers already put in roughly £2 for every pound spent by the taxpayer. It is critical that industry tackles its value-for- money offering, reducing costs without cutting services, to head off another five years of above-inflation fare increases."
Philippa Oldham, Head of Transport and Manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said: "The investment plans announced today by Network Rail are very welcome. Much of the UK's railway network was built in the Victorian era, and upgrades to parts of the country's railway network, like flood defences and signal systems, are long overdue. The improved signalling techniques will allow trains to run closer together, without impacting on safety, but increasing capacity.
"It is encouraging that Network Rail is focusing on providing faster and more reliable transport to more passengers, as an efficient transport system is crucial to the UK's economic recovery and these improvements could encourage more people to swap their cars in favour of travelling on the railways.
"Today's announcement is also good news for the UK's efforts to tackle climate change, as there are plans for 30 per cent more freight to be transported on the rail network.
"Government needs to review today's announcement in the context of the country's wider transport infrastructure - including roads and airports – so that it can ensure that people are able to travel in a way that is cost effective, reliable, safe and in line environmental and climate change targets."