Essex: £2.2bn Boost For Rail Network

A £2.2 billion plan to run and expand the railways in the East between 2014-2019 has been unveiled today (Tuesday January 8th) by Network Rail.

The plan involves boosting capacity and delivering a more reliable service for passengers.

If approved, there will be extra seats on trains for commuters heading into London after estimates show the number of passengers heading into the capital is set to double by 2031.

There will also be upgrades to outdated overhead power lines between London Liverpool Street and Chelmsford.

The next step is to then renew overhead line equipment on the branch line to Southend, Cheshunt and Bishop's Stortford.

There are also proposals to build a new rail operating center in Romford which will open in 2014.

It will eventually control the entire railway in the Anglia region, covering parts of London, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Improvements will also be made to level crossings.

Network Rail plan to renew or upgrade 154 crossing in the region, including at Beaulieu Park in Chelmsford.

But despite the big investment plans, Network Rail envisages no overall improvement in train punctuality compared with the trains-on-time target for 2009-2014.

A figure of 92.5% punctuality was set for the period 2009-2014 - a target which Network Rail has failed to meet.

And chief executive Sir David Higgins added, ominously, that the industry, under pressure to cut costs, had entered "the era of trade-offs''. He went on: "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.''

Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) chief executive Richard Price said: "Ministers have shown huge faith in what the railways can add to Britain's society and economy, committing to around £20 billion-worth of public money at a time when there is little money to go around.

"Key to maintaining rail's success will be openly justifying this significant commitment of public money. Taxpayers significantly fund the railways, and have every right see where this money is being spent.''

He added that the plan "demonstrates the company's ambition to deliver an even better railway for Britain''.

Mr Price continued: "ORR will now scrutinise the plan on behalf of rail users and taxpayers to ensure every penny is made to count and that all those involved in delivering the plan work together to achieve the highest levels of efficiency and best possible value for money.

"Our analysis, informed by public views, will focus on ensuring NR delivers the right plans, in the right ways, at the right cost.''