Rail network gets backing

Chancellor Alistair Darling confirmed plans to invest £15 billion in the national rail network between 2009 and 2014 in his comprehensive spending review (CSR).

The government's pledge is in line with the high level output specification published by the Department for Transport (DfT) in July.

Programmes will include increasing rail capacity, modernising the Thameslink service in London, funding station upgrades and £200 million of investment in a strategic freight network.

The CSR also outlined an annual 2.25 per cent rise in the DfT's programme budget over the next decade, which means that transport spending will more than double between 1997 and 2018.

Darling added that the DfT will contribute up to a third of the Crossrail project, announced by the prime minister last week (Planning, 5 October, p2). Bus services will receive £200 million a year to enhance concessions for the elderly and disabled.

There is support for local road pricing schemes via the transport innovation fund. Extra money is also committed to strategies for boosting the capacity of congested roads, including widening the M25 and M1.

The Campaign for Better Transport's executive director Stephen Joseph welcomed extra funding for local transport and rail services. But he expressed concern at motorway widening plans: "These are expensive and will move the congestion around while adding to traffic and carbon emissions."

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