A £48bn boost for the UK’s rail network

As he announced the syphoning off of government funding in the Autumn statement, Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond made a point to remark on “significant additional funding” for an area that’s been crying out for just that for many years – the UK’s rail network.

On top of the £23bn earmarked for innovation and improvements to infrastructure, digital signalling is to be trialled to the tune of an extra £450m.

This system, which is already used on France’s high-speed TGV network, allows trains to run closer together, creating greater capacity on existing lines without having to build new ones.

Development director for infrastructure at design and consultancy firm Arcadis said digital signalling would “totally revolutionise our railways, increasing capacity, improving the much-maligned experience of passengers and improving punctuality and safety.”

To accommodate increasing city populations, £80m has been allocated to bring in smart ticketing functions, which will include season tickets in major UK cities.

The Exeter – Plymouth line meanwhile, which was previously decimated by adverse weather, will benefit from a share of £170m set aside for flood defences and resilience measures.

The funding coincides with Network Rail’s intention to bring third-party partners into the fold on some of their plans. The rail operator received a direct grant of £35bn, on top the income earned through track access charges and their property portfolios.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said the “record rail funding” will address the dissatisfaction felt by many on a regular basis,

“As a commuter, I know how frustrating it is to be delayed by problems on the line. Passengers want a railway they can rely on, and that’s where this huge investment will make a real difference to their everyday lives – by renewing more tracks earlier and increasing maintenance to deliver far better services,” he said.

“This investment is about boosting reliability and punctuality for millions of journeys, and we will do this alongside building major upgrades around the country and delivering new, faster, more comfortable trains.”

Clearly, there’s increased opportunity for railway contractors to help Network Rail realise a number of bold trials as well as general improvements between now and 2024.

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