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Transport secretary gives rail links in north and south £794m boost

LaToya Harding
·2 min read
Commuter train departing a station and gathering speed
The new funding includes £760m for the delivery of the next phase of East West Rail, which will create 1,500 jobs. Photo: Getty

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps is restoring two axed rail routes that have been closed to passengers for more than 50 years, providing a £794m ($1.1bn) boost.

The investment is part of the government’s pledge to “build back better” from the coronavirus pandemic, and level up transport infrastructure across the country. It aims to reconnect communities and stimulate economic growth.

The new funding includes £760m for the delivery of the next phase of East West Rail, which will create 1,500 jobs, and reinstate direct rail services between Bicester and Bletchley for the first time since 1968.

It also includes £34m to progress plans to reopen the Northumberland line, which still carries freight, between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Ashington. The line closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts.

The restoration of the East West Rail is to provide better connectivity along the Oxford-Cambridge arc and shorten journey times between routes outside of London, boosting economic growth and serving major new housing developments.

This phase of the project will include the construction of a new station at Winslow, as well as enhancements to existing stations along the route, including Bletchley. By 2025, 2 trains per hour will run between Oxford and Milton Keynes via Bletchley, the government said.

Meanwhile, the investment on the Northumberland line will fund preparatory works, including land acquisition, detailed design work and early site works.

READ MORE: Grant Shapps ‘rules out’ Brexit disruption to coronavirus vaccine delivery

Shapps said: “Restoring railways helps put communities back on the map, and this investment forms part of our nationwide effort to build back vital connections and unlock access to jobs, education and housing.

“Returning these routes to their former glory, and progressing work to reopen even more lines and stations shows our commitment to levelling up journeys across the country as we build back better from the pandemic.”

The announcement comes just days after leaders warned a proposed funding cut to key transport initiatives in the north of England would delay economic recovery and undermine the levelling-up agenda.

Although it is yet to be agreed, the Department for Transport (DfT) has made known its intention to award less than half the funds included in Transport for the North’s (TfN) spending review bid last year.

It includes a cut in TfN’s core funding from £10mto £6m, and no funding for the roll out of contactless payment systems on the north’s rail, bus and tram networks.

WATCH: Boris Johnson pledges to “build back better” after the coronavirus pandemic