UK Government announces £800m investment for restoration of two historic railway lines

Posted on 24 January 2021

The announcement of the UK government's investment of almost £800m for the restoration of two railway lines that have been closed to passengers since the 1960s has been met with both praise and criticism.

The East-West Rail project, which aims to eventually link Oxford and Cambridge, will receive the lion's share of the funding at £760m. This significant investment will be used to open new sections of the line, which is expected to help connect previously "left-behind" communities. The Northumberland Line, which currently only carries freight, will receive £34m to begin work to reintroduce passenger services.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has championed this investment as part of the government's "levelling up" agenda, which aims to restore vital connections and provide access to jobs, education, and housing. The restoration of these lines is expected to provide a significant boost to the local economies of the areas they serve.

However, some have criticised the decision not to electrify the lines. Labour MP Daniel Zeichner has argued that it will cost more to electrify the lines at a later date and that new railways should be built sustainably. Shapps has countered this argument by suggesting that the latest technology could potentially be used in the future without the need for overhead wires.

Despite the debate around electrification, the investment is expected to have a significant positive impact. The East-West Rail project will rebuild the line between Bicester and Bletchley, which was closed in 1968. The restoration of this line is expected to provide new stations at Winslow and Bletchley and aims to get trains running between Oxford and Bletchley by 2025.

The restoration of the Northumberland Line is also expected to create 1,500 jobs and have a positive economic impact on the area. The line was closed in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts, which aimed to rationalize the railway network.

Overall, the announcement of this significant investment in railway infrastructure is likely to be met with cautious optimism. While some have criticised the decision not to electrify the lines, the restoration of these railways is expected to have a positive impact on the local communities they serve and help to stimulate economic growth in these areas.

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