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The Government is today announcing a large-scale investment in the intercity trains network, following hot on the heels of the Conservatives’ announcement yesterday of the conclusions of its own review of rail policy.

We featured a video of shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers talking about the plans on the site last night, but here is a brief summary of the eight key planks of what she is saying the Conservatives would do with regard to the railways:

  • A high speed rail line linking London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds – to dramatically improve journey times;
  • Creating a "passenger champion" – a powerful consumer-facing regulator;
  • A reformed Network Rail – with a new supervisory board, giving passengers a stronger voice;
  • Better cooperation between track and train – strengthening and extending the duties placed on Network Rail to work closely with train service providers;
  • Longer and better franchises – with 15-20 year franchises being made the norm to give greater certainty and to encourage investment in new capacity;
  • Innovation in Rail Improvements – with funding for smaller scale capacity enhancements being made contestable and opened up to other providers;
  • Ending Whitehall meddling – radically scaling back the detailed involvement of the Government in areas such as timetabling and buying new rolling stock; and
  • A moratorium on building on disused rail paths – conserving any disused railway lines still in public ownership to keep alive the prospect of reopening these lines in the future.

Theresa Villiers hailed the plans as a providing both a long-term vision for the railways and practical solutions to passengers’ everyday concerns:

“By building a new high speed line connecting London, Birmingham Manchester and Leeds, the Conservatives will take a major step forward in transforming the UK’s transport infrastructure. But we also recognise the need to tackle the issues that plague out existing railways and which Labour continue to ignore. We will put passengers first by introducing a Passenger Champion with a mandate to hold Network Rail and train franchise operators to account when they fail.

“After twelve years of disappointment under a Labour Government people know the only way to see Britain’s railways improve is through a change of Government. Our rail review shows the Conservatives have forward looking ideas to make the changes people want to see.”

Click here to download the pdf of the full rail review, Getting the Best for Passengers.

Jonathan Isaby

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