Chancellor approves electrification and rail fare restraint

THE CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer has set out plans to invest in more rail electrification, a London Underground extension, a new line from Oxford to Bedford, an accelerated upgrade of Tyne & Wear Metro and more trams for Sheffield.

George Osborne presented his autumn spending review to MPs, saying that his plans would create jobs and make the United Kingdom more competitive.

As part of that aim, he has also confirmed that January's increase in regulated rail fares in England is to be held to RPI plus 1 per cent, rather than the previously-planned RPI plus 3 per cent. Transport for London fares will also rise by the same amount.

However, he said nothing about the possible rises in 2013 and 2014, which had also been planned to be RPI plus 3 per cent.

Network Rail is to receive another £1 billion to invest in the network.

Electrification is to be extended to the TransPennine line between Leeds and Manchester, and the East-West rail link between Oxford, Aylesbury and Bedford has been approved.

In London, a proposed extension of the Northern Line to Battersea has been approved, including two new stations. The chancellor said this scheme alone would create at least 20,000 jobs.

Light rail is to benefit as well, with investment announced for Tyneside and South Yorkshire. The upgrade and modernisation of Tyne and Wear Metro is to be accelerated, and four additional trams are to be bought for Sheffield.

Mr Osborne's plans have triggered a bleak response from the RMT.

The union's general secretary Bob Crow said: "Rather than a thin-scraping of jam tomorrow, robbed from other parts of the cupboard, what Britain needs today is real investment for growth, and we could start by ending the nonsense of sacrificing thousands of manufacturing and supply chain jobs in the East Midlands, which are threatened by shifting train building to Siemens in Germany.

"While George Osborne is talking about some limited investment in transport infrastructure thousands of jobs on the trains, tracks and stations are threatened by the Government’s McNulty rail review. That is a glaring inconsistency that sticks out like a sore thumb."

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