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Economy Economy

Create extra capacity on the railways

Last updated: 04:41pm 8 December 2019

We will focus on creating extra capacity on the railways, which will ease overcrowding, bring new lines and stations, and improve existing routes – including for freight.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.24

Our verdict

Along with the proverbial “leaves on the track”, overcrowded trains have become something many people associate with rail travel in the UK.  This is a promise to increase capacity by opening new lines and stations, as well as improving existing routes.

There are other promises related to increasing passenger railway capacity which we’ve tracked separately (see “Related policies” below). We are tracking this promise too because “extra capacity” could be delivered even if those related policies aren’t.

In October 2017, the government announced a direct grant of £34.7 billion for rail spending between 2019-2024. Network Rail, which operates railway infrastructure on behalf of the government, currently lists five “mega projects” and three “national projects” designed to improve capacity. Mega projects include:

  • Crossrail – scheduled to open in 2020, running from Reading to Shenfield, aiming to carry 200 million  customers annually
  • Derby Resignalling Project – completed at the end of 2018, reduced bottlenecks in the Midlands and added a platform to Derby station
  • Great North Project – to allow 14.6 million extra journeys annually in the north of England, scheduled for delivery by 2022
  • Great Western Mainline – electrification of the track predicted to increase peak-hour capacity by 30%
  • Thameslink Programme – enhanced infrastructure and 115 new trains

Despite these projects, capacity has not kept up with passenger numbers. Cities outside London on average ran with 2% more passengers than capacity in Autumn 2018 – up from 1.8% in 2017. The London routes were even busier, 4.0% over capacity.

This policy is ‘in progress’. There are various initiatives under way which should help the government reach its target. To deliver on this promise, we will expect future statistical releases to demonstrate increased capacity on the railways. Follow this policy for updates.

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Related policies

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