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Fri October 23 2020

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Rail programme welcomed by contractors but unions are less than excited

26 Nov 10 The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) has welcomed the government’s announcement of plans for £8bn investment in the railways. Rail union RMT, however, dismissed it as ‘smoke and mirrors’.

Among the spending plans announced yesterday by Transport secretary Philip Hammond was confirmation that the Thameslink development project is to go ahead in full, although with a two year delay.

CECA national director Rosemary Beales said: “Contractors will welcome the government’s commitment to developing Britain’s rail capacity and investing in aspects of our rail infrastructure. Investment in our transport network is absolutely integral to Britain’s economic growth, especially as rail infrastructure is so vital to British business.

“However, we are concerned about the continued uncertainty in relation to the Great Western line electrification, which has a strong business case and could also provide vital work to the Welsh industry at a time when it has experienced a number of recent infrastructure project cancellations.”

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The RMT was more concerned about the halving in the previously promised number of additional railway carriages over the next four years from 1300 to 650. It also accused the government of ‘kicking in to the long grass’ the Inter City fleet replacement programme and key electrification and high speed projects.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Today's announcement on the railways is classic political smoke and mirrors. Key infrastructure developments like the Inter City Fleet and High Speed projects have been kicked deep into the long grass and even the carriage procurement numbers have been dressed up to look better than they are with long term projects mangled up with the urgent replacements required to keep pace with current demand. When you strip away all the lies and distortions, the truth is that the carriage replacement programme over the next four years has been slashed by 50%.

"The reality is that the inflation busting fare increases kick in within weeks while the infrastructure and upgrade works we need to drag the UK's railways out of the slow lane are light years away. The profits of the train companies are ring fenced while the services to passengers are left to rot. The travelling public will be rightly angry once the spin and hype around this announcement is exposed and the reality sinks in - they will be robbed blind in the new year to pay for the political promise of jam tomorrow."

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