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East-West line included in £37bn rail improvement plan


Reopening the line linking Bedford and Oxford via Bletchley is a major part opf Network Rail’s strategic business plan submitted to the Office of Rail regulation.
Network Rail, which manages the UK’s rail infrastructure and whose national headquarters are in Milton Keynes, plans to spend £37.5 billion by 2019 in a five-year plan to expand Britain’s railways.
The plan also includes the construction of the HS2 high-speed link between London, the Midlands and the North. Completion of the £6 billion upgrade of the Thameslink line linking Bedford, Flitwick and Luton with London, is also part of the programme, as is a £500 million electrification of the Midland Main Line.
The Oxford-Milton Keynes-Bedford line will also be electrified and will link the Great Western, West Coast and Midland Main Lines.
If approved, the investment in new infrastructure will provide 170,000 extra commuter seats at peak times by 2019. However, said a Network Rail spokesman, even this will not be enough on the West Coast Main Line where the added capacity that HS2 will provide is essential both for the future of the railway and the economic prosperity of the country.
Network Rail’s five-year strategic business plan for 2014-2019 maps out a programme of projects designed to maintain and improve an ageing infrastructure and schemes to reduce the cost of running the rail network.
Chief executive David Higgins said: "One million more trains run every year than ten years ago, more passengers arrive on time than ever before, our safety record is one of the best in Europe and, despite the daily challenges we face, customer satisfaction is at record levels.
"Successive governments have made this possible by looking beyond the short term and recognising the critical importance of the railway to Britain’s future.
"As our railway gets busier the challenges get bigger and more complex. We have entered an era of trade-offs. Increasingly we have to balance the need to build more infrastructure, run trains on time and cut costs, and in many areas choices will need to be made.”
Tim O’Toole, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, said: "We are moving forward together as an industry, which is a significant development, but at the end of the day passengers and freight users must see the value in our efforts. That means satisfying the demands for more capacity but also the demands for value for money. The latter will only be met by achieving greater efficiency and better service for everyone who uses and pays for our railway.”
Network Rail has also outlined ten key commitment for the future of the rail industry, including investing in new technology, building partnerships with customers and suppliers and investing in infrastructure to save long-term costs and build on its record for running one of the safest railways in Europe.
Mr Higgins said: “As an industry we have achieved a huge amount, but we are already seeing the benefit of working more closely together with our customers and suppliers and that must remain at the heart of everything we do. Our aim is to be a trusted leader in the industry as we work to build a better railway for a better Britain.”