Billions of pounds will go into replacing old sections of railway under a five-year £35 billion spending programme announced today by Network Rail.
Under the plans about £11.5 billion will be invested in replacing older parts of the network, including track, signalling and bridges, while £11.4 billion will be spent on day-to-day maintenance and the costs of operating and running the network safely.
But the RMT transport union said the 22 per cent of savings Network Rail was making in the next five years included a 28 per cent cut in track renewals this year.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “No amount of spin can disguise the hard reality that Network Rail is under a huge financial squeeze and has shelved nearly a third of the track renewals projects it had already scheduled for this year.
“Added to cuts in track-inspection and signals-maintenance frequencies, that not only threatens to undermine safety, but it also puts at least 1,000 skilled engineering jobs at risk, and there will be no let-up in our campaign to get these cuts reversed.
“That would be simply wrong at any time, but during a recession it is scandalous - not least when Network Rail is Government-funded and the Government has said it will help the economy weather the worst of it by spending money on public projects.”
Today’s plan included spending more than £2 billion on Crossrail, the £5.5 billion Thameslink project, a £600 million transformation of Birmingham New Street station and a £425 million improvement scheme at Reading station in Berkshire.
Network Rail also outlined its plans to spend £300 million on a new line from Airdrie to Bathgate in Scotland as well as a £150 million nine-mile link between Glasgow Central station and Glasgow airport.
A further £12 billion of the money will be invested in projects designed to relieve congestion, including more seats, more trains and longer and faster trains, it said.
Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said: “The next five years will see massive investment in improving the railways for passengers and freight users by adding capacity and relieving overcrowding.
“We will see a transformed railway through ambitious plans that will deliver more trains, more seats, longer trains and faster trains.
“Services will be even more reliable, delays caused by the infrastructure will be cut by nearly 25 per cent and we will embark upon an investment programme that is bigger and more ambitious than anything seen in a generation.
“Delivering all this will require major change across the industry and we should not underestimate the scale and difficulties of the challenge that lies ahead.”
But Network Rail confirmed that it was £210 million short of being able to provide some of the extended platforms needed to accommodate some of the longer trains that will be coming into service.
A spokesman said: “We are committed to deliver the overall outputs within the overall funding.
“New, more effective and efficient construction techniques coupled with the pragmatic use of selective door opening at less busy stations will enable us to meet the needs of passengers for longer trains and platforms in London and the south east.”